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Hi TIJ Readers!

Happy New Year! And Happy National Radon Action Month! With the growing interest in radon inspections among the inspection community, we decided to kick off the year by interviewing 10 inspectors that offer radon testing. They share why they test, what investments they make to test, and how they manage risk. See an excerpt below.

Best,
Stephanie
 



Radon inspections: What you need to know

Radon: the colorless, odorless gas emitted into the air by the radioactive element, radium, as it breaks down in soil, rock, and water. Typically, radon penetrates buildings through small cracks or openings in foundations undetected. And, once radon has entered a property, the radon may be trapped inside. In fact, this is what home inspectors test in their radon inspections.

More statistical evidence may be necessary to fully understand the causal relationship between radon and lung cancer (more below). However, the EPA continues to characterize radon as a cause for concern. In 2017, the EPA designated January as National Radon Action Month, encouraging observers to "Test, Fix, Save a Life."

Since testing is the only way to determine a home's radon levels, the EPA and Surgeon General recommend that home buyers, sellers, and remodelers test all homes below the third floor. If consumers discover elevated radon levels of four picocuries per liter (4 pCi/L) or higher?which the EPA estimates that nearly one in every 15 households do?then the EPA urges them to take corrective measures, including the installation of a radon-reduction system.

Many national and local governments encourage and, in some cases, even mandate radon testing during real estate transactions. This has led many home inspectors to offer radon testing as an additional service. In fact, over a quarter (25 percent) of the inspectors we insure carry the radon endorsement. This implies that just as many inspectors currently offer radon testing in the market at large. (More on endorsements later.)

In this article, we explore why 10 home inspectors chose to offer radon testing and what recommendations they have for home inspectors considering offering the additional service.

Why inspectors test for radon.

When asked why they offer radon testing, the 10 home inspectors we surveyed said that they began offering the service for one or more of the following reasons:

1. They wanted to protect clients from potential lung cancer risks.

The labels "silent killer" and "cancer-causing radioactive gas" characterize public opinion and discourse regarding radon. But how did radon amass such a bad reputation?

While researchers studied radon?s effects on miners for decades prior, testing within homes began in Pennsylvania in 1984. While entering the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant, which was under construction, an engineer named Stanley Watras tripped a radiation detector. This monitor measured unsafe radiation levels for plant workers. Three things stood out to safety officials:

  1. When he set the monitor off, Watras was coming to, not going from, the Plant.
  2. Due to the construction, the Plant was not currently operating.
  3. No other workers were contaminated.

Based on the evidence above, Plant officials were certain that Watras had not been exposed to the radon at work. So, the officials took measurements of the Watras' home. To their alarm, they discovered radiation levels more than 200,000 times above the level permissible for people living close to nuclear power plants.

Believing that Watras' exposure to radon in his home may not be uncommon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a survey of 10 states that volunteered. During the 1986 survey, the EPA tested 11,600 homes for radon. The results: one of every five homes tested contained health-threatening radon levels. The EPA declared radon a national problem.

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