Testing for Radon in Schools and Homes Throughout the Pacific Northwest | Certified Technicians

In Southwest Washington, the Clark County Environmental Public Health Department
recommends ALL homes should be tested for radon.
In Oregon the Oregon Health Authority REQUIRES school districts to develop and
submit plans to complete radon testing in all schools.
RCP Environmental Radon Inspectors are trained and certified by the American
Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists and American National Standards
Institute (AARST / NIST) to help school districts and homeowners determine radon
levels in their buildings.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT RADON GAS INSPECTION

Oregon School Districts

2015 ORS 332.167¹ 
Tests of schools for elevated levels of radon
(1)A school district shall develop a plan for
testing schools for elevated levels of radon.
At a minimum, plans developed under this subsection must:
(a)Provide for the testing of radon in any
frequently occupied room in contact with the
ground or located above a basement or a
crawlspace; and (b)Provide for the testing of radon in a school
at least once every 10 years. These plans were required to be submitted to the Oregon Health Authority by September 1, 2016. The initial sampling must be carried out on or before January 1, 2021.

Radon in SW Washington

Clark County Washington has been classified by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
as a Zone 1 Area, which has the highest radon
potential risk Clark County Public Health is working with the EPA in a nationwide campaign to educate communities about the dangers of radon exposure and to encourage them to take action
to protect their homes and families.
Clark County Public Health is promoting
increased awareness of the health effects of
radon exposure and encourages testing,
mitigation, and radon resistant new construction.
“The only way to know if a home has a radon
problem is to test.”
“Every home should be tested, regardless of age,
construction type, or previous test results.”

RCP Environmental can be a valuable resource for unbiased objective accurate testing of radon levels in
your school buildings. As an independent third-party radon measurement company, our staff of radon
measurement professionals are familiar with the regulatory requirements and local recommendations
regarding radon in residential, commercial and public buildings of all ages throughout the Pacific
Northwest.

Radon-Home-Testing 

What Is Radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is colorless, odorless, tasteless. Radon comes from natural deposits of uranium in the soil. It is found everywhere in the world. Uranium naturally decays into radium that further breaks down into radon gas. While some states have more radon than others, the only way to determine radon levels in a building is to test it. Because radon is a gas, it can move up through the soil, allowing it to enter buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation.

This can occur in buildings or homes of any age regardless of foundation type (e.g., with or without basements). Radon is typically at its highest concentration in the lower portion of a building. Once radon enters a building, it is easily dispersed through the air. Any building has the potential for elevated levels of radon.

The Science and Physics that make Radon Harmful

Radon gas itself starts out relatively harmless until it produces decay products. Eventually, radon decays into radioactive particles (decay products) that can be trapped in the lungs when you breathe. As these particles decay further, they release small bursts of radiation. Radon has a half-life of about four days. This means half of a given quantity of it breaks down every four days. When radon undergoes radioactive decay, it emits ionizing radiation in the form of alpha particles. It also produces short-lived decay products, often called progeny or daughters, some of which are also radioactive. Unlike radon, the progeny are not gases and can easily attach to dust and other particles. Those particles can be transported by air and can also be breathed. The decay of progeny continues until stable, non-radioactive progeny are formed. At each step in the decay process, radiation is released.

Learn about more about our other Services we offer at RCP:
Asbestos Surveying & Hazardous Materials

HEALTH EFFECT OF RADON GAS

Radon is a known human carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to elevated radon
concentrations causes an increased risk of lung cancer.
As radon gas decays into radioactive particles, it gets trapped in your lungs when you breathe.
As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This can damage
lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Not everyone exposed to
elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer, and the amount of time between exposure
and the onset of the disease may be several years. This radiation can damage lung tissue and
lead to lung cancer over the course of a lifetime.
The Surgeon General has warned Americans about the health risk from exposure
to radon in indoor air and urged Americans to have radon testing performed in homes and
schools across the country. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers in the
United States. Breathing radon over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk.
Other health agencies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the
World Health Organization, have made similar conclusions about radon’s danger to human
health.

Radon and lung cancer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks radon in the highest classification
of cancer-causing substances – Group A. This category only includes those substances
with sufficient evidence of causing cancer in humans.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 21,000 lung cancer deaths
each year in the United States are caused by radon exposure. It is the second leading cause of
lung cancer in the country surpassed only by direct smoking, and the leading cause of lung
cancer among nonsmokers.

Is Radon dangerous?

Breathing radon gas does not cause any short-term health effects such as shortness of breath,
coughing, headaches, or fever.

There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon. It typically
takes years of exposure before any problems surface and then it is too late.
Because you can’t see or smell radon, people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore
the possibility that there might be a silent killer in their homes.

If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
The only way to know if a home has a radon problem is to test.

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What is the acceptable level of radon in air?

The EPA states that no level of radon exposure is always safe. However, the EPA recommends homes be fixed if an occupant’s long-term exposure will average 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.

How often is indoor radon a problem?

Nearly one out of every 15 homes has a radon level the EPA considers to be elevated—4 pCi/L or greater. The U.S. average radon-in-air level in single family homes is 1.3 pCi/L. Because most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors, indoor exposure to radon is an important concern.

How does Radon get into a building?

Most indoor radon comes into the building from the soil or rock beneath it. Radon and other gases rise through the soil and get trapped under the building. The trapped gases build up pressure. Air pressure inside homes is usually lower than the pressure in the soil. Therefore, the higher pressure under the building forces gases though floors and walls and into the building. Most of the gas moves through cracks and other openings. Once inside, the radon can become trapped and concentrated.

Openings which commonly allow easy flow of the gases in include the following:

  • Cracks in floors and walls
  • Gaps in suspended floors
  • Openings around sump pumps and drains
  • Cavities in walls
  • Joints in construction materials
  • Gaps around utility penetrations (pipes and wires)
  • Crawl spaces that open directly into the building

Radon may also be dissolved in water, particularly well water. After coming from a faucet, about one ten thousandth of the radon in water is typically released into the air. The more radon there is in the water, the more it can contribute to the indoor radon level.

Trace amounts of uranium are sometimes incorporated into materials used in construction. These include, but are not limited to concrete, brick, granite, and drywall. Though these materials have the potential to produce radon, they are rarely the main cause of an elevated radon level in a building.

Outdoor air that is drawn into a building can also contribute to the indoor radon level. The average outdoor air level is about 0.4 pCi/L, but it can be higher in some areas.

While radon problems may be more common in some geographic areas, any home may have an elevated radon level. New and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements can have a problem. Homes below the third floor of a multi-family building are particularly at risk.

Can Radon Level in a building's air be predicted?

No, it is not possible to make a reliable prediction.

The only way to determine the level is to test. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

In addition, indoor radon levels vary from building to building. Do not rely on radon test results taken in other buildings in the neighborhood—even ones next door—to estimate the radon level in your building.

Do radon levels increase with the age of a home?

No. The only way to know the radon level in any home, regardless of its age, foundation type, heating system, air tightness, or building materials, is to conduct a Radon Gas Inspection/Test. Elevated radon has been found in brand new homes and homes over 150 years old.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages all homeowners to test their residences for radon gas concentrations.

All homes can be fixed!

Reliable techniques exist for reducing radon levels in homes. Experience with radon mitigation systems has developed to the point that virtually any home can be fixed, either by a trained radon contractor, or in some cases, by homeowners who accomplish the repairs themselves. One out of 15 (6%) homes nationally may have elevated indoor radon levels that should be lower.  The percentage of elevated homes in your state may be much higher. The only way to know a house is elevated is to test.

How do I treat radon?

Research by public and private agencies, years of extensive hands-on mitigation experience, and long-term follow-up studies on the durability of radon mitigation systems have formed a strong knowledge base of proven mitigation techniques for homes, schools, and commercial buildings. The techniques are straightforward and, for a typical single family residence, can be done in one day by a qualified contractor.

Radon reduction requires more than just sealing cracks in the foundation. In fact, caulking and sealing of foundation openings, on its own, has proven not to be a reliable or durable technique. However, sealing is done in conjunction with other mitigation steps.

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