Are radon test kits reliable?

The below article talks about everything you need to know about radon test kits, along with some frequently asked questions about the same. 

Are radon test kits reliable?

Radon is a hidden danger to many, due to which it is highly recommended to conduct periodical radon check-ups. Radon can be monitored using self-test kits or by professionals. Self-tests for radon are of two types, a short-term test or a long-term test. Studies have shown that more accurate readings are shown by the long-term tests that measure radon in your house during an approximate period of 90 days. 

About Radon 

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, that could have severe impacts on physical health, including the onset of lung cancer. Usually, radon is found in high concentrations in homes and workplaces, and since its tasteless, odorless, and colorless, it is usually not identified until there is a diagnosis of radon poisoning for someone exposed to high levels of radon. Radon is one of the leading causes in the world for lung cancer and has been found to contribute anywhere between 3% to 14% to all lung cancer cases in a country, depending on the national average of radon levels, and national radon emissions or strategies set in place. 

Radon is produced during the natural radioactive decay of uranium, which can be found in rocks or soils. It can also be found in different water bodies occasionally. Radon has the capability to escape from the ground and latch onto air molecules, where it would decay further and cause the emission of radioactive particles. Radon is capable of entering our bodies via breathing and is deposited in our nasal pathways and lung tissue, where prolonged exposure and deposit formation could cause the initiation of cancer in the person. 

Outdoor, radon can be diluted quickly and is only present in smaller concentrations that do not pose a threat to health, however, indoors, with limited ventilation, there is a possibility of increasing radon concentration and exposure, which could lead to severe health effects. Especially in places such as mines, caves, water treatment facilities, older buildings, etc. can have increased radon concentrations. Given the physical and chemical properties of radon, inhabitants and employees of such places could be potentially exposed to high levels of radon, which could cause them long-term distress and chronic health conditions. 

Radon Test Kits

Radon test kits are of two types: short-term test kits and long-term test kits. Short-term test kits are used when you need to monitor radon levels in an enclosed space in a matter of 2 to 3 days, and these tests are usually not as accurate as long-term tests. Long-term tests measure radon levels in enclosed spaces over a period of 90 days. Radon levels keep fluctuating over days and months, due to which longer tests are more accurate in portraying average radon levels in the area. Long-term tests can be picked up from any nearby hardware store. 

Short-term testing could include alpha-track detectors, charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation detectors, electret ion chambers, and continued monitoring of radon levels. In order to conduct the short-term tests, inhabitants will need to follow the below steps:

  •  Keep the windows and doors shut, as much as possible for at least 2 to 3 days 
  • Avoid fans and other ventilation systems that may bring in air from outdoors

Long-term testing is relatively easier, where the test kit is placed at the lowest level of your house or workplace for approximately 90 days, and at the end of this time period, pack it and send it for analysis. The results for this test would be back in a matter of weeks. 

As mentioned earlier, radon levels keep fluctuating, as the emission rates from the ground could vary, and the amount that is measurable per day thus keeps changing. Radon could be absent for a small amount of time, and then reach high concentrations in a matter of days, this is why long-term tests are preferred; since they would monitor radon levels and allow for us to analyze these levels over different weather conditions and other relevant elements. Radon disperses quite easily and thus could travel across your house, or any other enclosed space quite easily through general movements, through the ventilation systems, etc. Therefore, test kits are usually placed at the lowest levels of the space to ensure minimum interfering elements and to ensure that the radon emission is captured at its strongest. 

To ensure an accurate reading, state governments recommend that periodical tests be conducted. For example, the US EPA recommends conducting radon tests every two years at a minimum. Radon levels could keep changing with changing environmental conditions, therefore, it is always important to remember that indoor air quality is just as important to health as outdoor air quality. Long-term exposure to radon could cause severe distress, therefore, inhabitants must be careful and vigilant against radon poisoning. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Are Radon test kits reliable?

Which radon test kits are best?

Here is a link to an article that compares different kinds of at-home radon test kits. It is always best to remember that long-term radon test kits are more accurate and provide users with a clearer understanding of the degree of mitigation strategies that may be required.

What is the radon theory in the TV show, “The Office”? 

The Radon theory suggests that employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company Inc., in the fictional TV show, “The Office”, were exposed to Radon, and this had long-term effects on their behavior and general health; which can be observed through their behavior portrayal in the show, and the dismissive attitude of their boss to conduct air quality tests to identify radon and other air pollutant levels, could mean that employees in this fictional story could have experienced radon poisoning over the years of working with the company. 

When do radon poisoning symptoms show up?

One of the main reasons that radon poisoning is as dangerous as it is lethal is because radon has the capability to build and form deposits in our body, and symptoms of radon poisoning may not appear until too late. It is also to be noted that initial symptoms of radon poisoning may look like the flu, due to which they may be dismissed and treated as generic flu or allergy. It has also been found that radon symptoms may show up late and aren’t diagnosed as radon poisoning until cancer has been identified or is close to being identified. This is one of the main reasons that several state governments and experts recommend periodical checking of indoor air quality levels so that tabs are being kept and mitigation strategy can be taken up as and when the problem arises, rather than waiting until physical health has deteriorated severely. 


Dale T. (2022, January 27). The best radon test kits of 2022. Bob Villa. Viewed on 01-30-2022. 

Radon Eliminator. (2019, October 07). Are home radon test kits accurate? Viewed on 01-30-2022. 

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