Is radon testing worth it?

The below article talks about whether testing for radon is important, and if it makes a difference, along with some frequently asked questions about radon, radon kits, and air quality. 

Is there any real value to testing for radon?

Radon is a tasteless, odorless, and colorless noble gas. It can have devastating impacts on human health including instigating cancer and respiratory issues. Radon is usually found in basements, cellars, and other spaces that are closer to the ground. It is quite important to understand that radon is one of the leading causes of lung cancer, and is a silent killer. Initial symptoms of radon poisoning may appear like the flu with dizziness, it could be dangerous especially to vulnerable groups of people, including senior citizens, growing kids, etc. Therefore, please do test for radon periodically in the spaces you frequent. Ignoring radon emissions could cost your life. 

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. 

Symptoms of Radon Poisoning

Radon poisoning builds up eventually, and may not show symptoms until quite late. Usually, either during the diagnosis of cancer caused by radon poisoning or when you’re on the verge of a diagnosis. Therefore, it is always advised to keep an eye out for the below symptoms of radon poisoning that you may experience (NRD, n.d.): 

  • Persistent cough 
  • Changes in voice and increased hoarseness
  • Wheezing 
  • Respiratory difficulties 
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Increased frequencies of bronchitis or pneumonia 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Are radon tests worth it?

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.

Is Radon a noble gas?

Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, and tasteless noble gas, occurring through the decay of radium, uranium, and thorium. Since it is a noble gas, it is chemically not active and can only combine with other compounds under extreme circumstances. It is the heaviest known gas and is a health hazard due to its radioactivity that causes severe health effects to those exposed. 

References 

Dale T. (2022, January 27). The best radon test kits of 2022. Bob Villa. Viewed on 02-03-2022. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/best-radon-test-kit/ 

National Radon Defense (NRD). (n.d.). Radon Symptoms. Viewed on 02-02-2022. https://www.nationalradondefense.com/radon-information/radon-symptoms.html 

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