Test to Find if Radon Gas is Present in Your Home

Radon gas is an extremely hazardous form of indoor air pollution, find out if your house contains this radioactive, colorless, odorless gas through inexpensive indoor radon testing.

| March/April 1986

  • Testing for radon gas
    Now there's a quick, inexpensive way to find out if a deadly visitor is seeking refuge in your home. Is radon calling?

  • Testing for radon gas

Now there's a quick, inexpensive way to find out if a deadly visitor is seeking refuge in your home. Is radon gas calling?  

By now, the presence of radon gas in many U.S. homes has been widely reported. Radon, a decay product of uranium, rises from the soil and is often trapped inside buildings. Once there, the colorless, odorless gas and its radioactive decay products (often called daughters) attach to dust and can be inhaled by occupants. Centers for Disease Control scientists now estimate that indoor radon is the number two cause (after cigarette smoking) of lung cancer in the U.S. and is responsible for between 5,000 and 30,000 deaths per year. Unquestionably, radon is an extremely hazardous form of indoor air pollution.

Test to Find if Radon Gas is Present in Your Home

Most of the publicity about radon has concerned one so-called hot spot in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, an area which is underlain by significant uranium deposits. But recent evidence has begun to show that high indoor radon levels are far more pervasive than first imagined. Information compiled from over 50,000 samples taken by Terradex Corporation's testing laboratory shows that only five out of 50 states have so far failed to show at least one case of a radon level above the Environmental Protection Agency's recommendation for homes built on sites contaminated with uranium-processing waste. And there have been fewer than a dozen tests done in each of those states, so more bad news may well be yet to come.

What's more, data from a study done by the Bonneville Power Administration have shown that it's not just tight, energy-efficient houses that are susceptible, as was previously supposed. Field monitoring of super-insulated homes with air-to-air heat exchangers and conventional leaky houses showed little difference in radon levels. It's now estimated that as much as 10% of the homes in the U.S. have indoor radon levels that exceed the EPA's recommendation.

Testing for Radon Gas

How do you find out if your home, or a house you're planning to buy, has dangerous radon concentrations? Terradex Corporation (Walnut Creek, CA) will send you its Trak Etch monitors, which remain in your home for 30 to 90 days and are then returned to the lab for analysis. It usually takes about 90 days for a complete test, and the service costs about $80. Terradex's system involves what is essentially photosensitive material that is etched by radioactive decay particles. It has been widely used by individuals and government agencies. In fact, Terradex tested the earth-sheltered house at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Eco-Village, which we're pleased to say turned up clean.

Another testing service, Airchek (Penrose, NC), uses a method that was refined for indoor measurement of radon gas by Dr. Andreas C. George of the U.S. Department of Energy's Environmental Measurements Laboratory. Airchek sends a porous bag containing 50 grams of activated carbon (charcoal) that is exposed in the home for four to six days, absorbs radon, and then is sent to a laboratory for analysis. Typical total turn-around time for the standard service is three to five weeks, and the cost is $19.95.


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