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Odd Radon Readings


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I did a test the other day that produced some unusual results, and I have a couple questions for any radon guru / veterans out there. I don't do many of these here, and have never had an average above 1.5 or a single hourly reading above 3.5 (continuous monitor). I drew a 2.4 average on this last one, with 9 hourly readings between 4.0 - 7.0 and 4 tamper indications in the readout. Even though the average was well below the 4.0 "action level" I felt the spikes and tamper indications were something the client had to be made aware of, so I made the call.

I don't think the tamper thing is a real concern, probably just someone bumping the monitor (in spite of my sheet with all of the appropriate warnings). The high spikes worry me.

Needless to say this caused a stir with all concerned. I'm setting up a second test tomorrow at the request of my client, to double check the readings. I'm running a little control test on my back porch tonight, just to make sure I'm not suddenly getting spikey readings anywhere and everywhere.

Does anyone know of any particular circumstances or chemicals or anything else that might produce false or erratic readings with a continuous monitor? Am I right to be concerned about the spikes or should I just stick to the averages?

Brian G.

Where Radon is Probably Joe-Don's Brother [;)]

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Hmm. You may have some recorded data that is somewhat 'inconsistent'. However, you didn't stay there thru the test, mount TV cams at all windows/doors. Spikes could be due to noisy detector by the way. Sounds 'inconclusive' to a degree. I'd never use the word 'tamper' unless you saw them doing it with your own eyes and doing so deliberately. On the other hand, opening windows even a small slit can indeed mess up a radon test and cause some spikes like that. Also, occupant activities could as well (using hi-CFM exhaust blowers for some reason). I presume "all" windows and doors were kept closed per your notifications, right? (I.E, 'every stinking lousy window, top to bottom, no exceptions').

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I use a Sun Nuclear model 1027 CRM.

"Tamper" is the word Sun Nuclear uses, and I've been careful to call them "tamper readings" (shows up as a big "T" on the readout). I assume if they were really tampering with it I would have seen very low readings rather than high spikes. I'm sure that's just carelessness.

My overnight/outdoor control test produced a pretty typical 0.5 average with no undue spikes, so I don't believe it's a monitor malfunction.

A visit to the EPA site last night found the EPA now saying "Because there is no known safe level of exposure to radon, EPA also recommends that Americans consider fixing their home for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L." Given that I feel I'm on solid ground about raising concerns with the client, even below the "action level".

Brian G.

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Brian, what do you consider spikes? I have been testing with a continous monitor for quite a while and there are lots of things that can cause what you discribe. Can you post or send me the hourly readings. The time of day can cause very large swings in the reading as can wind or High & Low pressure systems. Not to mention opening windows and doors, bath fans, kitchen fans, dryers, etc.

Tom Barber in VA

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Brian, we have lots of those devices. It is my opinion you did not have a valid test. Read the manual for the device; Tamper explaination, do the math and calculate the error factor. If you are going to quote EPA, then make sure you have followed all of the protocols. Likely you did not, just as we usually do not follow all of them. Remember, it is just a screening and your customer should know the test was invalid.

You know my e/mail or fax it 517-669-0070 and Lynn our office manager, Radonwoman@aol.com will be glad to help. She likes the young handsome guys from the south!

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Originally posted by Les

It mostly goes to the ability of a gas to move thru soils, density of air etc.. It does not enhance the radon amount.

Forgive me if I'm being a little dense Les, but I don't quite follow you there. Does the weather event facilitate the movement of higher amounts of radon, or does it affect the ability of the monitor to read the level accurately?

Joe's readings also made me curious. This is for anyone and everyone:

What's the highest reading you've ever seen? Average, single hourly reading, whatever.

Brian G.

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Thanks Joe for your answer to Brian. I was watching Desperate Housewifes.

Just to add a little - Radon is about air and air movement, as is weather. It is my theory that the the smaller the "reading" the more critical the measurement protocol. In areas like Mid-Michigan, I also believe a forty-eight hour test is not very valid. Several times we have left a device in place for a week and could have picked several periods of 48hrs that the EPA average would not have exceeded 4pcl and several that would have. For our area, I am in favor of longer testing.

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The second test ran at a 1.6 average, well below the original 2.4, without the big variations or tamper readings. The weather was clear and consistant all weekend, no "events". I told my client the first test was probably invalid, based on the conditions of each test and the input I recieved from you gentlemen. I appreciate the feedback and assistance from all, thank you. It's all about getting it right, isn't it boys?

Brian G.

CE4Me [:-graduat

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello Brian G:

I am new to this forum and so forgive me for any transgressions. I found your radon question intriguing and also intriguing were some of the responses. First of all, I am not an home inspector – I am just a science type. I’m a consulting forensic industrial hygienist, and my perspective is from a science perspective. I have been involved in radon assessments for about 15 years.

Regarding radon and radon monitoring systems, there are a few things that are frequently forgotten. Firstly, products like the Sun Nuclear 1027, charcoal canisters, and electret counters do NOT measure radon. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. Rather, they usually measure quantifiable parameters associated with various physical phenomenon associated with radon decay. For example, it’s my understanding that the model 1027 is a scintillation counter with a “discriminatorâ€

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Caoimhin,

Your scope of knowledge is indeed impressive. I, for one, will be spending time at your web-discussion site to learn more about radon. I recently attended the Auburn University measurement class, and intended or not, the overwhelming lesson imbued was how imprecise short-term tests are. Your take on radon is sort of like the global-warming frenzy currently being propagated by the media and irresponsible scientists. The scientists are utilizing about a hundred years of recorded temperatures with which to divine trends on a planet that is more than six billion years old. It's sophistry to even consider that such a thing is possible.

John

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[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes[:-bigeyes....................This guy is soooo smart it's scary.[:-banghea

I'm gonna go watch the Simpsons now. Sigh[:-paperba

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mr. Connell,

Well...that's a lot more than I knew, but I'm not sure where it leaves me as an HI. I get the idea I'm wasting my time with the short test, but I can't very well offer a long test for a real estate transaction either. Hell I'm just a self-employed home inspector trying to make a living and do what's right, I only knows what they tells me. [:-boggled

As long as we're questioning the status quo on how this is done, let's not leave out mitigation. I remember when the class I sat in was told that simply increasing ventilation of a crawl space was ineffective in mitigation. Huh? If you don't pay a few grand and have a fan put in you don't have a chance? Who did that study (and who funded it?)? I'd love to see the details of how that was run. 2 + 2 = 4 damn near every time, so if you have adequate ventilation of a space it should have a significant effect (fan driven or not). [:-dunce]

Anyone want to buy a lightly used Sun 1027?

Brian G.

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Caoimhin, I actually enjoyed your part of the discussion. Your writing reminds me of Henry Petroski's style.

You seem to be very knowledgeable about such things, BUT can you write poetry? Around this board that is the real question.

P.S. I don't know radon or poetry and rely on others.

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Hello Brian G:

Don't fret. The practical upshot of all this has nothing to do with the science behind it. You have liability exposure, you have E&O insurance (or not), and you have professional standards (and/or guidelines). Right or wrong, if you don’t follow those standards and guidelines, you increase your liability exposure. If the EPA guidelines said “Prior to placing the detectors, place a raw egg on your head.â€

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Originally posted by Les

BUT can you write poetry? Around this board that is the real question.

P.S. I don't know radon or poetry and rely on others.

Ooops… Sorry, Les, I wasn’t paying attention. Yes, of course I write poetry; only insects specialize. I count amang my peers the greats such as James McIntyre, Paul Neil Milne Johnstone and of course, William Topaz McGonagal (just see if I don’t).

Cheers,

Caoimhín P. Connell

p.s. (pronounced “QWEE-vingâ€

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