The Reality of Radon

Like most people, I was not an expert when it came to Radon – even as a home inspector. That is until about 3 years ago when I came across a situation involving a person with a lot of health issues.

Here is the definition of Radon from the CDC website: Radon is an odorless, invisible, radioactive gas naturally released from rock, soil, and water. Radon can get into homes and buildings through small cracks or holes and build up in the air. Over time, breathing in high levels of Radon can cause lung cancer. > radon

According to both the EPA and the American Lung Association, radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon accounts for approximately 21,000 deaths a year – 2,900 of the deaths occur among people who have never smoked. > radon > at-home

Radon is produced by the radioactive decay of radium-226, which is found in uranium ores, phosphate rock, shales, igneous and metamorphic rocks such as granite, gneiss, and schist, and to a lesser degree, in common rocks such as limestone.

And of course, New Hampshire is the Granite State. So yay for the residents of New Hampshire, we have some of the highest levels of Radon in the entire country.

So as I mentioned, there’s a story: As we often do as home inspectors, I travelled down to a home 2 days ahead of the inspection to set a Radon air test and take a water test.

The home was a 2 year old home, with the original occupant living in the home. I set the Radon air test in the basement and proceeded to prep for the water test. While I was taking the water test, I chatted briefly with the homeowner.

He proceeded to tell me a sad story of how his health problems had curtailed his life. He used to run a car dealership with 20+ employees. But everything in his life had spiraled downhill over the last two years. He was suffering from COPD and asthma, and was recently diagnosed with leukemia. His health problems forced him to give up his job. He was going to move himself into an assisted living facility, since he was finding it extremely difficult to get along on his own. And all since he moved into the home 2 years ago after the construction was completed.

Well I told him how sorry I was for all of his health problems, took my water test, and I wished him well.

2 days later, I performed the home inspection, and picked up the Radon air test and brought it to the lab.

Initially, because I was busy with other home inspections, I didn’t get a chance to look at the lab results.

But the day after the inspection, I received a phone call from a representative from the New Hampshire DHHS office. He was inquiring about the Radon air test that I conducted at the property that I had just inspected. He wanted verification on the Radon levels that I recorded. I admitted that I hadn’t yet looked at the results. Well he proceeded to tell me what the results were:

129 pCi/L air (4.0 is the accepted level in New Hampshire).

11,900 pCi/L (above 2000 pCi/L if Radon in Air levels exceed 4 pCi/L is the level for the water).

He indicated that the highest recorded Radon air level in the state was 138 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air). So he was looking for verification of the levels that I recorded. He wanted to know what test parameters I followed. I explained that I adhered to all the recommended test parameters. That’s all I could say.

But after that conversation, I began to think of the gentleman living in the house. No wonder he had so many health issues. He was getting blasted from both the air and the water in the home!

That inspection solidified for me why it’s essential to test for Radon – both in the air and in the water.

We offer Radon Air and Full Water Testing – including testing for Radon and Uranium.

Michael McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
Vermont Property Inspector License # 143.0134099
HUD 203k Consultant # P-1939

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