Understand the risk to your family by having your home’s radon level measured
Radon is a radioactive gas that is a byproduct of the decay of uranium (shown above in an abandoned mine), a metallic element that is present in very low levels in rock and soil. Radon is released from rock and soil in the ground, and because of air pressure differences can make its way into your home.
Radon accumulates in houses, and the higher the level the higher your risk of developing lung cancer. Alto Home Inspection offers radon testing in Buffalo, Amherst, Cheektowaga, Hamburg, Orchard Park and all of Western NY.
We offer professional radon testing services at the same time as a home inspection, or as a separate service. Contact us and we will make scheduling easy, regardless of your situation.
As awareness of the dangers of radon increases, so does the amount of radon tests that we perform. 4 out of 5 of our home inspection clients have radon tests before they purchase their home. In order to answer questions that we’re often asked, we wrote an article about the reasons for having homes in the Buffalo checked for radon.
Many of our clients are homeowners who are just concerned about the effects that radon can have on their health, and have us test their homes so that they can take any needed action to reduce levels of the dangerous gas.
We find that those concerned about radon in their homes also are having their homes near Buffalo tested for mold also. If you are interested in this service, just ask!
Alto Home Inspection, LLC maintains membership in the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technicians (AARST). The AARST is a non-profit trade organization that is “dedicated to the highest standards of excellence and the ethical performance of radon measurement, radon mitigation and knowledge transfer.
Radon levels are particularly high in areas of Western New York where shale deposits are present in the soil. Radon is a radioactive decay product of uranium. Radon gas is common in nature, but the “stack effect” created by rising warm air in homes tends to pull air and radon out of the soil and into the structure.
The higher the concentration of radon in the air, the more dangerous it is for your health.
Once in the home, radon decay products attach to microscopic dust particles. If inhaled, these particles may lodge in the lungs and damage DNA, eventually causing cancer. The National Institutes of Health Cancer Center estimates that between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year are related to radon exposure.
The US Surgeon General Richard Carmona, in 2005, warned the public of the danger of radon. He stated that “Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country”.
Radon is especially toxic at high levels. In many towns in Erie County over half of all radon tests have shown levels that require mitigation.
If you have a radon test performed on a house that own or are about to purchase, and the result shows an average level of 4.0 picoCuries per Liter (or pCi/L), then it is recommended by the US EPA that a system is installed to reduce the level below 2.0 pCi/L.
These radon mitigation systems typically cost between $800 and $1500 to install, and are very effective at reducing radon if they are properly designed and installed. When choosing a radon mitigation company, make sure that they follow the EPA’s guidelines for radon mitigation.
If you are buying a home that has a radon mitigation system, it is important that you have a professional radon test done. We have measured radon levels at homes with mitigation systems, yet the level was above 4.0 pCi/L. A result like this shows that the mitigation system was not doing its job, either because of a failure or a design issue. There is no excuse for a real estate agent or anyone else to encourage home buyers to skip a radon test in any home.
Our clients include both home buyers and those who own homes already. Two common situations come to mind when we think about radon testing and radon mitigation fans and systems:
1. A buyer’s real estate agent insists that a radon test isn’t needed because a mitigation system is installed already
We have come across this position too often. The fact is that anyone can install a radon mitigation system, and permits to install them are not required (although an electrical code inspection might be required). Mitigation systems should be tested every few years, otherwise there no information to tell you that they have reduced the radon level in the house. There is no excuse for a real estate agent or anyone else to encourage home buyers to skip a radon test in any home.
2. A homeowner wants to make sure that their mitigation system is working properly
Good radon mitigation companies should test the home after the system is installed, for a minimum of 48 hours and using a continuous radon monitor. We have done follow-up tests after mitigation systems were installed and found fantastic results, and also found systems that were not effective at all.
If you are buying a home that has a radon mitigation system (or already live in a house with one), it is important that you have a professional radon test done. We have measured radon levels at homes with mitigation systems, yet the level was above 4.0 pCi/L. A result like this shows that the mitigation system was not doing its job, either because of a failure or a design issue.
There are no signs or symptoms of a high radon level, unfortunately. Long-term exposure to radon is to blame for over 20,000 cases of lung cancer a year in the United States, second only to smoking.
Unsafe levels of radon are present in Buffalo, along with every town and village in Western NY, despite the guidance offered by just a few real estate agents.
We follow the US EPA guidelines for radon testing, which means that all radon tests in the Buffalo area run for at least 48 hours. Since we use continuous radon monitors, results are available to you as soon as the test ends.
You’ll get the reading as soon as the test ends. Shortly after that, an official report will be emailed to you.
As a gas, radon moves in mysterious ways through bedrock, groundwater and soil. The level of radon gas in your home depends not only on its location, but the specific geology immediately below your home, as well as the construction of the home. We recommend that everyone understand the radon level in their home by having their house tested.
We follow EPA and NY Department of Health guidelines when testing levels of radon in a home. While granite can often contain radium, which decays into radon, testing of the counter directly is not necessary or helpful. We test the ambient air in the home for radon, which includes radon that is released from the counter top.
A continuous radon monitor, or CRM, is an electronic device that is used to measure radon levels in homes. They allow you to see results of radon testing as soon as the test is over, instead of waiting 2-4 days as traditional methods require. CRM’s are calibrated annually, and undergo cross checking and other validation tests to ensure that they provide highly accurate results.
I can only assume that some home inspectors use charcoal canisters because they are easier to obtain and use. New York State regulates CRMs in order to protect homeowners from home inspectors and other who otherwise would choose to purchase the highly sophisticated instruments and never calibrate them or perform other important quality checks.
The truth is that they provide results far too slowly in my opinion for use during a real estate transaction. Many inspection contingencies allow for 5 days for inspections and testing, canister radon measurement most typically takes all of 5 days.
Average prices in Buffalo and Western NY are between $1000-2000, with most mitigation work being on the lower end of that range.
To ensure that you are using a qualified mitigation company, I recommend to my clients that they choose a radon mitigator certified by the NRPP.
Simply put, we started the business in order to provide an objective and unbiased opinion to protect homeowners and property investors.
We cannot be unbiased if we are identifying a problem such as high radon gas levels, fixing the problem, then validating that we fixed it. That does not make sense to us.
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