Radon Gas Blog

Resolve to Reduce Radon and Improve your Health

Posted by Travis Jewell on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 @ 05:22 PM


This time of year, many of us are focused on resolutions:

With new years, come new goals, resolutions and changes. Many of us choose to improve our health during the new year. We may set challenging weight loss and fitness goals. We may change our diet by decreasing junk food and eating more fruits/vegetables. During the turn of the year, the population of your local gym may double for a few months. Some of us may jog on the treadmill for so many miles that our lungs just cant take it anymore! Speaking of lungs, and speaking of health, it's time that more people think about reducing radon exposure.

 

Reduce_Radon_Gas.jpg

 

Did you know that it's simple to reduce radon exposure? Just follow these steps.

  1. Learn about the dangers of radon gas: 
    1. It is invisible and odorless. You do not know if it's there unless you test for it.
    2. The gas is radioactive! Its alpha radiation damages lunch tissue and causes cancer.
    3. Radon is the number one reason for lung cancer in non-smokers!
    4. Homes, apartments, office buildings and schools can be at risk for radon.
    5. Basements, crawlspaces and slabs all can have radon problems. 
    6. Certain parts of the country have higher levels than others but no area is "clear."
    7. Radon exposure can be higher during winter.
  2. Go buy a radon test kit and check your home:
    1. Radon test kits online.
    2. In local big box hardware stores.
    3. Local health departments sometimes offer free radon test kits in January.
    4. Get your home Professionally tested by certified measurement providers.
  3. If it measures low, remember:
    1. Retest for radon every 2 years and in different seasons.
    2. Radon can be higher or lower during different times of the year.
    3. Consider following up with a long-term radon test kit.
  4. If radon tests are high, contact a certified radon mitigation company:
    1. Make sure the company offers you an on-site estimate and not just a phone quote.
    2. Choose a good radon contractor.
    3. Read their reviews on accredited review sites.
    4. Make sure that they are licensed and insured for your area.
    5. Make sure they have a real local office. Do a web search of their address, is it real?
    6. Read the radon quote. Make sure the price is firm.
    7. Read the radon reduction warranty. Make sure to check the fine print.
  5. Prepare your home for the best radon system install:
    1. Identify and remove stored items from cracks in the concrete floors for sealing.
    2. If you have an older sump pump, consider replacing it with a newer model before the radon technician seals it with a sump lid.
    3. Identify and crawlspace areas and make sure the company will be sealing the crawlspace to mitigate radon gas.
  6. Re-test for radon after the system is installed:
    1. Don't assume that the radon system is working. The only way to know,  is to do routine radon follow-up tests to check its performance.
    2. If the radon level is high after the system is installed, call the contractor to have them return to fix it. This is when it becomes important that you chose a good radon company. Make sure they don't just get paid and disappear.
    3. The lower the radon level, the safer you are. Some radon systems are able to get radon levels down to near zero, like that of outdoor air.
  7. Maintain your radon system:
    1. Make a habit to check your radon system vacuum gauge often.
    2. Identify and seal any new cracks in your concrete floors. 
    3. Maintain a proper seal over your sump.
    4. Inspect your crawlspace membrane (if applicable) for rips and tears.
  8. Breathe easier knowing that you have reduced your radon exposure.


RISK TO YOUR HEALTH FROM RADON DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A PROBLEM:

Yes, radon is extremely dangerous. Yes, the EPA, CDC, WHO and other organizations talk about how dangerous it is. But, its only dangerous if you are breathing it. Luckily, if it is present in your home, radon mitigation systems do an excellent job of reducing your exposure to it. If you think you have high levels of radon gas, want to buy a test kit or just have questions about it. Please feel free to contact us.

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Tags: Radon Gas, Radon Mitigation, Radon Lung Cancer, Radon fix, effects of radon, Radon Testing, radon measurement, radon health, reduce radon, lung cancer

Testing for radon in schools

Posted by Travis Jewell on Mon, May 18, 2015 @ 07:30 AM

The safety of children in schools is of utmost importance. Fire drills, wet-floor cones, lead free paint, asbestos abatement and security guards are common place in today's schools; for a good reason. As you walk up to a school, you will see a sign on the door that states: ‘All visitors must check in at the front desk. Every measure must be taken to keep unwanted guests from our schools. What about a dangerous guest who sneaks in? This guest is unwanted and dangerous. Public, private, charter and home schools are all at risk. You can’t see, hear or smell this invisible threat. What is this invader? It’s radon gas, the naturally occurring, radioactive gas that can enter a school through the foundation. Radon is a proven danger, let’s keep it out of our schools.

Radon_testing_in_Schools_Radovent

 

Parents, faculty and even students are beginning to urge school districts to start implementing more routine radon measurement practices. Some schools already have radon testing procedures in place while others do not. Each school may vary when it comes to radon gas risk. Some schools are located in zones that have a higher probability for radon than others. Some schools have foundation plans or HVAC systems that can create more potential for radon entry. No matter what the circumstances, any school (or individual classroom) can have elevated radon levels. The only way to know is to perform extensive radon screenings and make sure that the screenings are done right.

 

We were recently involved in a radon in schools screening. We were contacted to measure radon levels several elementary schools in Utah. We offered a proposal for a thorough radon survey in the schools. Our radon survey included a radon test kit placed in every frequently occupied, ground-contacting room. Along with this were quality assurance procedures including duplicate and blank tests to ensure accuracy of the sample. Another radon measurement “professional” came in with a quote substantially less than ours. When speaking with our client, it became aware that this “professional” quoted a random screening that would use a fraction of the number of test kits that we proposed. The measurement provider claimed that they were using the EPA standards…. Had they read the EPA RADON MEASUREMENT IN SCHOOLS document, they would have known that it says to “take initial measurements using a short-term test. Short-term measurements should be made in all frequently occupied rooms in contact with the ground to provide a quick test of whether or not high radon concentrations are present. All rooms should be tested simultaneously.” You don't want a random screening to miss a potentially dangerous room.

 

There are several reasons why a thorough screening should be done:

 

  • Radon entry in large school buildings is different from radon in homes. School buildings tend to have complex foundations with many footing sections and combination footprints of concrete slabs, basements and crawlspaces. Each foundation area can have different radon entry behaviors. 
  • Schools can have complex HVAC systems that can change the radon entry behavior from one room to the next. These systems can be altered when schools are remodeled over time or if there is a damper or programming error. Radon screenings can help find problems with the HVAC system.
  • Unlike most homes, schools and large buildings can have extreme radon level swings from one room to the next.
  • If a random radon screening is done, a school can be labeled as “safe” yet one or more of the untested rooms may be elevated. Random screenings can also offer false high data causing alarms with parents, faculty and students. Panic can set in and cause the district to jump to radon mitigation when it might not be necessary. Radon mitigation can cost tens of thousands of taxpayer or private funds. (The problem with random screening was proven with our recent situation)

 

After describing the correct procedures and problems with the other proposal to our client, they immediately decided to move forward with our proposal. We performed a proper radon survey and luckily found that almost every room tested was well below the EPA radon action level. Many tested at < 0.3 pCi/l of radon gas. There were two schools that had rooms that measured high for radon. Two small office rooms in one of the schools tested very high. The district took immediate action and adjusted the HVAC systems in the rooms that tested high. We returned with our Radalink® continuous radon monitors to perform measurements in the rooms that tested high and found that the HVAC adjustments have corrected the problems in those rooms. After this situation, we have to ask ourselves; Had the other “professional” been hired to perform measurements in these schools, would their method of random testing have caught these three out of nearly 200 rooms that tested high for radon? Luckily we found these rooms with our thorough radon measurement service and the school district has made minor changes to make these rooms safer for the occupants.

 

There are several take-away examples from this situation:

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to test for radon in schools and large buildings. Unlike in most homes, often times elevated radon levels can be fixed with a small adjustment to the HVAC system. Homes usually require radon mitigation systems to stop radon gas from being a problem.
  2. When testing for radon in schools and commercial buildings, test every frequently occupied, ground-contacting room. Offices and classrooms are good rooms to test. Boiler rooms and custodial closets are not a good indication of the air the students, teachers and other staff are breathing.
  3. Be cautious of who is performing the radon measurements in schools. Use a certified or licensed radon measurement provider. Even when hiring a certified provider, be sure to check that they are using proper protocol. 
  4. Radon screenings in schools and large buildings with forced air ventilation systems should become a standard maintenance procedure for the HVAC system. Something as simple as a damper failure can cause elevated radon levels in one or more rooms. The radon screening will help avoid occupant exposure as well as keep the HVAC system running properly.]
  5. Initial radon screenings are short term tests to show if there is immediate risk. More follow-up testing can show detailed data to help understand the real radon risk.

Keeping schools safe from radon gas is important. Students and teachers spend a great part of the day in these rooms, breathing the air. Testing for radon in schools is not very difficult or expensive and should become routine in every district across the country. Children and their developing lungs should be breathing the best air possible.

Tags: Radon Utah, radon test, radon children, Radon Testing, radon measurement, radon in schools

Protect children from radon gas

Posted by Travis Jewell on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 @ 03:15 PM

children radon gasAre your kids exposed to radon?

If you are a parent like I am, your number one goal in life is to protect your children from harm. The day they are born, your world changes. You look into your child’s eyes and suddenly it all makes sense, this is what it is all about.

That first trip home from the hospital is the first time in years that you have driven 10 mph under the speed limit. You purchase a space age, video surveillance and audio system to watch their every move as they peacefully sleep in their crib. As they grow old enough to crawl, you install locks on every cabinet to prevent your bundle of joy from getting into anything dangerous. You check that your home is free of germs, chemicals and lead based paints. What about radon gas? Would you allow someone to smoke in a room with your child? According to the EPA, radon causes 7 times more lung cancer deaths than second hand smoke.

Could your child be breathing radon gas in your home? It may be more likely than you think. Millions of American homes have radon gas levels that are higher than the EPA radon action level.

Radon and babies

What is radon gas? Radon is a radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is odorless, tasteless and colorless. It comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil and can enter your home through the foundation or crawl space. Radon gas is heavier than air so it tends to be higher the lower you are to the ground.

Note: A child crawling on the floor may be breathing higher radon levels than the adults standing in a room. Many childrens bedrooms are in basements where radon levels tend to be higher.

How to check for radon:

You can find out if you have radon levels in your home by performing a radon test. Typically, people use DIY radon test kits that can be purchased online or in hardware stores. Short-term radon tests can help understand if there is risk sooner but long-term radon test kits give the best overall picture of radon levels in homes. Many home inspectors and other radon measurement professionals can perform a radon test using a calibrated radon measurement devise. These machines can show the fluctuations of radon levels over a period of time and print a radon test report that can be used for a real estate transaction or radon mitigation plan.

How to prevent radon:

Radon gas can be prevented with radon mitigation systems. These systems are like a vacuum for the soil under your home. They are installed by certified radon remediation professionals and are permanent components of the home. They are comprised of suction pipes that enter the soil under the concrete floor or a crawl space vapor barrier, a radon fan, and an exhaust pipe to vent the radon gas out into the atmosphere above the home. They run continuously to grab the radon from the soil before it can enter the home.

I was recently at a radon conference in Utah. One of the speakers is a client of mine who found out he had lung cancer and has never been around a cigarette in his life. His story of survival brings chills to me every time I hear it. His advocacy to test for and prevent radon continuously inspires me to work hard to increase radon awareness and build the best radon mitigation systems. Also at this conference was an oncologist who specializes in lung cancer research. He made a point that inspired this article: He mentioned that lungs of growing children are developing at a higher rate than adult lungs. Could these cells that are constantly dividing be more vulnerable to radon gas? I’m not a doctor, but I don’t like the thought of my children’s developing lungs being exposed to radioactive radon.

Across the country, more and more people are taking action to reduce radon in their homes. Many states are beginning to pass laws to build homes with radon resistant features. This year, Illinois passed a radon law requiring daycare facilities to test for radon every three years. These facilities must notify parents and guardians of the radon levels that their children may be exposed to. This past week, the EPA announced the Federal Radon Action Plan, which “aims to reach 860,000 homes, schools and daycare facilities in 2013.”

Protect your loved ones from radon gas. Order a radon test kit. If the radon levels are above the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter, install a radon mitigation system to continuously prevent radon from entering your home.

Tags: Radon Mitigation, Radon Lung Cancer, Radon Illinois, Radon Utah, RadoVent, effects of radon, radon test, radon children

Radon Mitigation Cost

Posted by Travis Jewell on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 @ 04:44 PM

radon system cost

“What is the cost of radon mitigation?” (client) “Well, that depends….” (radon mitigation contractor)


The costs associated with radon mitigation vary from state-to-state, city-to-city and home-to-home. Just like any industry, the market can play a role in determining your costs. If you live in an area where there are few certified radon contractors the price of service may be more. If you live in a large city with many service providers, competition my drive prices down. The age and construction style of the home can determine the complexity of a radon mitigation system. The important thing to know is that there’s not a one-size-fits-all situation when it comes to installing a radon mitigation system that works to reduce radon levels. You want a radon mitigation system that will do its job to reduce radon gas levels but in this economy we are all watching our pocket books.

Cost factors of radon mitigation:

1.    The radon contractor- Radon mitigation contractors are not all alike. Just like any industry, there are the good, the bad and the ugly. Beyond ugly, how can you distinguish the good from the bad? Read A quick guide to selecting a radon mitigation contractor. The experience, the reputation, and the quality of a contractor can be a factor in the price of your mitigation system.
2.    Components- An active soil depressurization (radon mitigation) system uses pipes and a radon specific vent fan to create vacuum in the soil under the home. There are several radon fan manufacturers in the U.S. that each produces several models of fans designed for specific objectives. Radon mitigation systems should be designed using the best fan model for that particular home. Too “small” of a fan may not achieve the best radon reduction results while too “big” of a fan may be more expensive than necessary and may cost more money in energy loss over the long run. The pipe used in radon mitigation systems should be of the highest quality, you want the pipe to last and not to leak. Schedule 40 PVC pipe is better quality than thin-wall schedule 20 PVC. Some radon mitigation quotes will be lower priced because lower quality, less expensive parts are used.
3.    The labor- You may have received several quotes from radon mitigation contractors but is the person who sold you the system, the same who will install the system? Make sure to find out who the contractor employs. A radon mitigation quote may be less if a contractor is using lower-paid or unskilled employees to install the system. It may be worth spending more money on the system by hiring a contractor that certifies their technicians and uses a higher skilled workforce. Radon systems require the installer to drill holes in your walls and foundation; you want a qualified person doing this kind of work on your home.
4.    The complexity of your home- radon mitigation systems should be designed specifically for your particular home. There is not a one-size-fits-all radon mitigation system that will work in every home to reduce radon levels. Construction factors play a role in the price of your mitigation system. Many homes can be mitigated using a radon system with one suction point but many other homes require a system that has multiple suction points to properly depressurize the entire footprint of the house. For example: a home with a full basement that has a area of the main level that is slab-on-grade usually requires more than one suction point to be able to stop the radon gas form entering the slab area. More than one suction point will add to the cost of mitigation because it requires more materials and hours to install. Radon mitigation in a home with crawlspace can be more than twice the cost of a system in a home with a basement because a crawlspace has to be sealed with an air-tight vapor barrier that requires much more labor hours and material to install.
5.    Location- Some areas of the country do not have many radon mitigation companies and some have many. If you live in an area with few contractors available, you may pay more for service because the contractor may have to commute further to provide their service. In areas with many contractors, competition can drive the price of installation down. In these areas of competition, be careful when getting multiple bids. The lowest price is not always a good idea. If a contractor is significantly lower priced than others, it may indicate a lack of experience, lower quality materials and ultimately an underperforming mitigation system.
6.    Energy costs- Not all costs involved in radon mitigation are the cost to install the equipment. If the job is done incorrectly, you may incur significant costs after the install. Radon mitigation systems create suction in the soil under the foundation of the home. This suction is intended to block the flow of radon gas but it can also pull some of your heated or conditioned air into the system and vent it out of the house, impacting your utility bills. A good radon mitigation contractor will be certain to take all measures to minimize the loss of conditioned air. A cheap radon contractor may not seal the cracks in the concrete floor or install a cover over your sump. Find a radon contractor who understands that a radon mitigation system should be fine-tuned to your specific house to maximize radon reduction while limiting the amount of conditioned air loss.
7.    Warranty- You purchase radon mitigation service to reduce radon levels. If your system is not under warranty and radon levels remain high, you may have to fork out more dough to have adjustments made or to have another radon company come out and fix the other companies mistakes. A good radon mitigation company will provide you with a radon reduction warranty or at least an up-front price to make modifications to the system if it doesn’t work. A warranty will prove to you that they stand behind their work. Warranty can effect the price because the more generous the warranty, the more the financial risk the company accepts. If the radon system does not achieve the intended results, the company may have to make warranty repairs out of their own pocket. A company unwilling to warranty their work accepts no risk, so they can install anything and call it a mitigation system, which can allow them to undercut legitimate contractors prices.
8.    Lung Cancer- The ultimate cost of an improperly installed radon mitigation system could be lung cancer. The purpose of purchasing radon mitigation services is to reduce radon levels. According to the EPA, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. When determining the price your willing to spend on a mitigation system, consider that you want the best radon mitigation system to achieve maximum radon reduction results.

As you can see, radon mitigation costs are determined by multiple factors. Most radon mitigation systems across the country fall between $1,000 and $2,000. The more complex the system, the more it will cost. The better radon systems will come from the company who is willing to design the best system for your particular home. Don’t base your decision on price when dealing with cancer causing radon gas. Make your decision based upon quality of work, references, licensure, design, aesthetics and experience of your radon mitigation contractor.

Tags: Radon Mitigation, Radon Lung Cancer, Radon Illinois, Radon Utah, RadoVent, Radon gas basement, radon system, radon vent, radon contractor, Radon and real estate, radon quote, radon mitigation service, radon mitigation cost, radon system price

Radon Mitigation is a Service

Posted by Travis Jewell on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 @ 10:47 AM

radon mitigation services

Radon mitigation is a service, a home improvement service, an indoor environmental service and most importantly service designed to reduce lung cancer risk. A radon mitigation system should provide you with the ongoing service of reducing radon gas levels. The key word is service. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, service is: the occupation or function of serving or the employment as a servant. A servant is one that serves others. A commodity is defined as a mass-produced unspecialized product. In a world that revolves around the almighty dollar, sometimes radon mitigation companies confuse commodity with service.

At a glance, a radon mitigation system may look like nothing but a couple of pipes and a fan. There is much more than meets the eye. When installed by a radon company based upon service, a radon mitigation system is a highly specialized remediation system that is optimized to perform best under the unique conditions of each particular home or building. When a radon company installs radon mitigation systems as a commodity, their clients are often left with an out of code, half installed and underperforming set of pipes and a fan. Over the years we have countless calls from homeowners who are unsatisfied with the service they received from these other companies.

Just this morning I met with one of those homeowners. They have a radon mitigation system installed in their recently purchased home. During the real estate transaction, it was negotiated into the contract that a system be installed due to radon test results showing elevated levels. The sellers selected a contractor to install the system and chose this company most likely because they were the lowest priced. Before they closed on the house, they had to provide proof that the radon levels had been reduced by the mitigation system. The post mitigation tests showed that the radon levels had been reduced to 2 pCi/L, which is below the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L. The buyers moved in and performed follow-up radon testing in various locations throughout the house to find radon levels were actually above the action level. In some locations it was three times the action level! Luckily they performed more radon tests in the house and didn’t rely on the original post-mitigation results or they may have lived with elevated radon for years on end with the false impression that the system was working.

They wondered how could this be? They called the original contractor who installed the radon mitigation system to ask them why the system isn’t doing its job. The contractor gave them a list of things they, the homeowners, could do to remedy the situation. This contractor didn’t even offer to fix his or her own system. The client did the few things the contractor suggested but still are living with elevated radon levels. They called us to see if we could help. I arrived at the property to see if I could find a solution to the problem only to find that the other company’s radon mitigation system was not installed correctly to begin with. Now this homeowner has to either pay to have the corrections made or, do what I suggested and vigorously pursue this contractor to have them fix the mistakes they made. This homeowner should not have to be in this position had the original contractor based their work on service rather than the commodity of the basic system components.

Thousands of homeowners across the country may be stuck in a similar situation because this is the nature of the radon mitigation industry. Most radon mitigation systems are installed as a part of a real estate transaction. Usually the buyer demands that the seller has a radon mitigation system installed if radon test show elevated levels of the gas. The seller, because they are interested in saving money, usually has a system installed by the lowest bidder. The lowest bidder in many cases views a radon mitigation system as a commodity, nothing but a couple of pipes and a fan. They install this “commodity” radon mitigation system, place radioactive radon stickers on the pipe, install a fan that is inexpensive and not tuned to the soil conditions and collect payment. Many times these systems fail to keep radon levels reduced throughout the year. A radon mitigation system that is installed as a service will be installed up to code and fine-tuned to perform under the specific conditions of each particular home.

If you have radon mitigation system in your home, I have created a checklist to make sure that the system provides you the ongoing service of reducing radon in your home:

1.    Test your home for radon gas at lease once every two years. Do-it-yourself radon test kits are inexpensive and accurate, if used correctly. Short-term radon test kits show an accurate snapshot of the period of time the test was placed. Long-term radon test kits give the best overall picture of the radon measurements in the home. Many people have a radon system in their home and assume that it is keeping radon gas levels reduced, but that is not always the case. The only way to know if your system is doing its intended job is to test periodically.
2.    Check the cracks in your concrete. A good radon mitigation contractor will seal all accessible cracks in the concrete floor of the basement. This is an important step to block radon entry. Unsealed cracks can prevent the suction of the system from stretching across the entire foundation. If a radon mitigation system is installed and running, unsealed cracks can increase your heating and cooling costs because the system can pull this air from within the home and vent it out into the atmosphere. Unsealed cracks can also lead to back drafting of combustible appliances. Back drafting can potentially lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If there are unsealed cracks, contact your radon mitigation contractor to return to the property and seal them like they should have when the system was originally installed.
3.    Check your radon system gauge. All properly installed radon mitigation systems should have a device that indicates system failure. In most cases, this is a manometer (vacuum pressure gauge.) The standard manometers have a series of numbers that indicate inches of water column, NOT RADON LEVELS. These devices let you know that the radon fan is on and running. Make it a point to check your system gauge at least once a week to be sure that there is not fan failure. On the system that I inspected this morning, the other contractor did not label this manometer. This is a dangerous mistake. A person who does not know what that device is for, may assume that 1” on the monometer indicates that they have a radon level of 1 pCi/L. A person can live with extremely elevated levels of radon and think the system is doing its job because the manometer is reading 1.
4.    Inspect the system components. The vent stack must be designed in a way to exhaust radon gas into the atmosphere and prevent it from re-entering the home. I have witnessed many radon mitigation systems, as I’ve driven through neighborhoods that have the vent stack exhausting right next to, or below a window. The exhaust must be at least ten feet away or two feet higher than any window, door or other opening. The Radon vent stack openings should be installed above the eave of the home and at least ten feet above the ground. This includes decks. Many times the vent stack follows all the above parameters but exhausts 8 feet above a deck. So these homeowners get hamburgers with a side of radon while enjoying a barbecue on their backyard deck.

If you do not have a radon system installed and are looking for a radon mitigation contractor, I have created a simple guide to help you find a radon professional who will provide you with the service that you deserve. Read my blog: A Quick Guide to Selecting a Radon Contractor


Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is important that radon mitigation systems do the job of reducing radon gas. When a contractor treats the radon system as a commodity, they install the basics of a radon system but many times do not fine-tune the system to perform best for your particular home. Radon mitigation companies that see their business as a service will provide you with a quality, fine-tuned, long lasting, good looking and up-to-code radon mitigation system. A radon mitigation system designed with the fundamentals of service will serve you with years of radon prevention.

Tags: Radon Gas, Radon Mitigation, Radon Lung Cancer, radon system, radon contractor, Radon and real estate, radon mitigation service