A shocking statistic is that 1 in 4 homes in Michigan have an elevated radon concentration. But what exactly is radon, anyhow? Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and invisible. It is also the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. The surgeon General’s office estimates that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year.
Radon forms naturally when uranium, thorium, or radium, break down in rocks, soil, and groundwater. This means that radon concentrations will often be at their highest in basements or crawl spaces. There it can enter through cracks in floors or walls and gaps in foundations around wires, pumps, and pipes.
Home Inspection - Radon Testing
To give a little more background on radon, and why it is important to do radon testing through a home inspection, there is the story of how radon was put into the limelight of harmful invisible gases. Before the mid 1980’s, homes were not routinely measured for radon levels. In 1984 there was a construction engineer working at the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant, in Pennsylvania, named Stanley Watras. Upon entering the plant each day, workers would pass a monitor installed to make sure workers did not accidentally accumulate unsafe doses of radiation while working. One day, Mr. Watras had set off one of these detectors, which was odd, because at the time there was no nuclear fuel at the plant. He was then examined and safety personnel and initially were unable to find the source of the radiation. Later they discovered that he was picking up the radiation from his home, where they measured the radiation levels to be 700 times the maximum level considered safe for human exposure. They discovered the culprit of his radiation was the naturally occurring and invisible gas, radon.
It is supported by the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, the EPA, the NAR (National Association of Realtors), WHO, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, and home inspectors across the board that each and every home is inspected for Radon. Alaska is said to be state with the highest levels of elevated radon levels. But Michigan is also cause for concern for radon. The average radon level in Michigan is almost twice the average radon level in the United States, due to our natural geographical landscape and many homes being closed up for a large part of or all year round.
It is recommended that homes are tested every 2-5 years, especially after construction is done in the home such as an addition, finishing a basement, etc. The health risks of radon exposure can wreak havoc on you and your family’s life if not detected early enough.
Thumb Home Inspection uses Electret Ion Chambers to detect radon. This method can survey radon in the air as well as radon concentrations in water, radium concentrations in soil, and radon flux from different surfaces.