PA Agency Urges Periodic Home Radon Testing

DEP said someone who does not want to use a do-it-yourself test kit should consider hiring a qualified radon professional to conduct a test.

Noting that 40 percent of Pennsylvania homes have higher levels of radon than EPA considers acceptable, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection this week posted a reminder encouraging Pennsylvanians to perform a simple test for this known human carcinogen. January is national Radon Action Month.

"Because of the state's geology, Pennsylvanians are at risk of exposure to high radon levels," said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. "Fortunately, testing is as simple as one, two, three: Pick up an inexpensive test at a hardware store, open it and set it on a surface in your basement, and in a few days mail the test to the lab. It's an easy New Year's resolution to keep and important to your health and the health of your loved ones."

Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks and enters homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings. High levels of radon tend to be found in basements, but it can be found anywhere in the home. Winter is a good time to test for radon because doors and windows are generally closed, providing more accurate results.

DEP said someone who does not want to use a do-it-yourself test kit should consider hiring a qualified radon professional to conduct a test.

The EPA action level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. A home radon level higher than this should prompt action to lower it, such as by installing a radon reduction system with a vent pipe and exhaust fan.

Radon monitoring is not one-and-done, McDonnell said. "If your test results are under 4 pCi/L, we recommend retesting any time home renovation or excavating work is done," he said. "If your test results are above 4 pCi/L and you have a radon reduction system installed, retesting every two years is recommended."

Anyone building a new home should consider installing a passive radon system during construction. There is no reliable way to test the ground in advance for radon, and the cost of installing the radon system during construction should be less than installing one after the fact. For people buying or selling a home, Pennsylvania's Real Estate Seller Disclosure Act requires sellers to disclose the results of any known radon testing, and the DEP website lists radon testing options for real estate transactions.

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