January 15, 2023
As part of a home inspection done on a home in Red Bank, Regal Home Inspections, LLC performed a radon test. This occurred about 4 years ago. Following the protocols for the placement of the radon test the test was conducted over a 2, 3 or 4 day period. I don’t recall the exact interval but I know, 100%, that it was done following the testing requirements. Those requirements have a minimum exposure time of 48 hours and as many as 144 hours (The equivalent of 6 full days). The test came back below the NJ DEP’s, “Action level” of 4.0 pico Curries per liter of air (pCI/L) so there was no further action that needed to be taken. Case closed. A couple of years later I received a call from the young lady that hired us for the Red Bank inspection and radon test because they had decided to sell that home and when the new buyer did their radon test it came back ABOVE 4.0. She asked can that happen and I said, “Yes” it’s possible.
In 2022, we did another home inspection including a radon test and this time, the test we did in association with the home inspection came back ABOVE 4.0pCi/L. The seller disagreed, hired someone else to do a test and the second test came back below 4.0. The seller complained but didn’t understand that radon levels can change. She complained that I had done something that made the test come back high. In my response I stated that, “It’s not like I carry a spray can of radon with me!” Additionally, I called one of the labs we’re affiliated with to ask a lab specialist if it’s possible for someone to fake a high result. His response was basically if the radon canister was opened, placed upside down on the basement’s concrete floor over a crack in the floor it’s nearly impossible to fake a high reading. Now please remember that A) Radon is one of the elements on the Periodic Table of the Elements. Just as is Oxygen, Helium, Iron, Gold, Uranium, etc. B) It’s a radioactive element so unless one wants to expose themselves to Alpha radiation, Beta radiation or Gamma radiation, it’s not a good idea to mess around with this stuff. It’s not like I can sprinkle some radon pixie dust on the test device to fake a high reading. C) The test device has to be placed following recognized protocols which we ALWAYS do.
Those are two anecdotes that give a little background. For over 31 years my family and I have lived in an area identified by the NJ DEP as a Tier 1 or “High radon potential” area. During the 10 years or so that I’ve been a home inspector and certified to conduct radon testing I’ve tested my home (In the basement) about 5 times. The results have always been between 2.4 and 2.7pCI/L. Late, last winter (2022) I purchased an active radon monitor. It hangs on the wall like a thermostat. It has an app to by smartphone and constantly measured for radon. Here’s an actual photo of the monitor. It’s manufactu-
red by a company called AirThings and I urge everyone to have one in your home. Their website is… Airthings | The world’s leading radon and indoor air quality monitors Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and 2nd only to cigarettes in causing lung cancer. Estimates are that 21,000 people die each year from radon caused lung cancer.
Again, the AirThings monitor was installed in the late winter of 2022. Everything looked good and the monitor read, as I was expecting, in the 2.5pCi/L range. Then Spring arrived. What do many of us do when spring arrives and the outside temperature rises to the mid 60s or 70s? We open all the windows as we did. About 2 days later the AirThings app on my phone issued an alarm of sorts. MUCH to my surprise, it notified me that the radon level in my basement rose above 4.0!!! The radon training requires that the test be done while maintaining, “Closed House Conditions.” That means no open windows, refrain from using the fireplace, etc. Why, because as I experienced 1st hand, opening the windows and airing out the house can cause negative pressure inside the house. Naturally the house wants to equalize the pressure which, in my case, led to drawing radon into the basement.
To rectify the situation, I opened a couple of windows in my basement. Just a crack, mind you, but enough to get some fresh air in. That seemed to do the trick. The average radon level dropped to below 2.0 and often close to 1.0pCi/L.
Then…I turned on a portable heater in my basement. There is some heat from the forced hot air heating system but I was working on a project and painting some cabinet doors that had been removed and placed on a couple of tables in the basement. With the intention of increasing the temperature of the basement to aid in the paint drying a little quicker, I turned on a portable, electric heater and closed the windows. It did the job I wanted it to do and the basement was nice and warm. However, warm air rises. I believe what happened is that as the warm air rose from the basement it, again, created negative pressure inside the basement. The way the house equalized the pressure was to draw air into the basement from the perimeter drain, etc. That caused the radon to spike to 3.0pCi/L. My project is done. The heater is off and the window is open again and the radon levels are going down.
So, what are the key take aways from this story?
- Radon levels change. Do not ASSUME that if it tests low once that it will always be low.
- Test regularly if that’s possible.
- And test at different times of the year. Since your home’s conditions may change seasonally, test seasonally until you get a good indication how the radon potential changes year-round.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your specific situation, please call either Brian or Frank at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. We’re both licensed by the NJ DEP to test for radon. Regal Home Inspections, LLC is licensed to test for radon in single family homes, townhouses, duplex homes, single unit condominiums. Frank is also licensed to perform radon testing in commercial buildings, large and small and schools including preschools and child care centers. Commercial buildings, large and small and schools including preschools and child care centers require a great deal of pre-testing analysis, coordination and fact finding and then strict adherence to the rules set forth by the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST).
Call – Brian @ 732 740 8365 or Frank @ 908 902 2590.