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Radon – Is It My Problem?

Radon 

It’s Someone Else’s Problem, Not Mine. Right?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector and Licensed Radon Measurement Technician

March 3, 2014

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About the author.  I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector.  I am the owner and Senior Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.  I have been a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician for over 20 years and was a member of the Colts Neck, NJ Board of Health and was Chairman of that Board for 2008 and 2009.    During my studies to become a Home Inspector and earning my NJ Certification to be a Radon Measurement Technician I learned a great deal about Radon and felt compelled to share that information in a manner that is easy to understand and increases awareness.  Every home in New Jersey should be tested for Radon on a regular basis. 

 The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been leading the effort to make citizens aware of radon and closer to home, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ-DEP) has been following suit.  Please read our earlier post for general information about radon.   This piece is intended to point out that a radon problem may be closer to home than you think. 

Background

A few points that I’d like to repeat from the earlier article is that radon is everywhere and it is naturally occurring.  It is a radioactive gas which means that it transforms spontaneously and in that transformation it releases tiny bursts of energy.  When radon is inhaled in your home (living levels, bedrooms or basement) it is these tiny bursts of energy, occurring inside your lungs, that cause harm.

 Radon is a colorless, odorless gas.  Radon IS NOT flammable, toxic or noxious.  It is, however, radioactive and it occurs naturally.  This article will look at the radon potential, as identified by the NJ-DEP, in various parts of the Garden State.   As you can see from the map, NJ is divided into 3 classifications of radon potential; Low (Blue), Moderate (Green) and High (Red).  Let’s look closer.State Radon Map0001

 What Areas of the Great Garden State are of Concern and what types of structures?

New Jersey Administrative Code N.J.A.C. 5:23-10 (2013), among other things, specifies the construction codes, as they relate to radon mitigation in “E” and “R” Use Groups.  “E” stands for educational and “R” is for some Residential.  The International Building Code (New Jersey Edition) identifies educational as a building that houses 6 or more people for educational purposes through grade 12.  Section 305.1 identifies K-12 and Section 305.2 refers to younger facilities (Pre-K and day care) that may have five or more children 2&1/2 years of age or older.  The same source identifies five different residential types, R-1 through R-5.  These include basically any and all residence structures from single family homes to apartments, dormitories, convents and more.

 N.J.A.C. also identifies two other very important aspects (among many other good things).  First, Sub Section 5:23-10.4 states the specific construction techniques that must be followed for E and R construction in Tier 1 areas.  Tier 1 are the High Radon Potential areas shown in red in the previous map.  Before I go to that discussion, let’s finish the discussion on the construction.  Among other important elements, for example, the N.J.A.C. states that, “Basement slabs with interior foundation pipe drains installed shall have a solid, three-inch minimum diameter vent pipe installed in conjunction with this drainage system and be connected to an independent vent stack pipe terminating at an approved location on the exterior of the building.”

This accommodation is to allow for the future installation of a vent fan in order to actively draw air from below the basement slab and out of the house before the sub slab gasses have a chance to seep into the house.  These are referred to sub-soil depressurization systems.

Therefore, new construction in these Tier 1 areas should have the basics for a radon mitigation system installed right from the start.  So then, where are these Tier 1 areas?

 Counties and Towns that are Deemed to be Tier 1

As you can see from the map  above the Tier 1 areas are nearly in every part of the state.  From northern Sussex County to southern Cumberland County, high radon readings are possible in many areas.  One thing you might notice is the sandy soils of the areas along the shore and the Pine Barrens are the lowest areas.  As written about in other articles, these sandy soil areas don’t have a lot of the bedrock with uranium as some of the other areas.  Northern Jersey has granite and shale that are ripe for the presence of Uranium 238 which is at the beginning of the radioactive decay process that results in Radon-222.  The N.J.A.C. specifically mentions counties and towns that are Tier 1 areas so if you can’t quite figure out if you live in a red area or a green one, this list should help.  

The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned code. 

Tier 1 A0001

Tier 1 B0001

Summary

If you live in one of these areas you live in an area of High Radon Potential.  You should get your home checked regularly.  Even if you have a radon mitigation system it wouldn’t hurt to check annually.  If you do not have a radon mitigation system you should check quarterly for a period of time.  Radon levels can change season to season and month to month.  It would be a good idea to have a baseline of seasonal levels.  If you have young children and you haven’t checked your home for radon it is something that you should do immediately.  When you are dealing with the health of you and your family, the cost to install a mitigation system is reasonable.  It’s a lot less costly compared to dealing with the illnesses that can occur from extended and continued exposure to radon.

Testing is easy and relatively inexpensive.  If you take advantage of Regal Home Inspections’ 2014 special you can save $50 and have a test performed for $100 (regular price is $150).

 Conclusion

Radon is a serious health issue but it can be minimized. You need to test now and then every 6 months.  Likely, it cannot be 100%eliminated.  It’s naturally occurring and exists in nature.  It’s not man-made nor can we stop it from existing.  We can, however, minimize its pathways into our homes and help ensure a healthy and safe environment.  It is better to know than to hope. 

Please call today to schedule your  radon test for your family.  Discounted prices are valid for tests started by March 31, 2014.  Please mention, “Radon Discount” when you call.  Also, if you need radon consultation, Regal Home Inspections, LLC can help guide you through the testing and mitigation process.  Regal Home Inspections, LLC does not mitigate so we are not motivated to find elevated readings so we can clean them up.  We inspect homes and we are licensed as a Radon Measurement Technician – MET13186.

I would appreciate your comments about this article.  Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com.