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  #1  
Old 08-10-2009, 07:08 AM
shallora shallora is offline
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Is Radon testing a scam?

The hopeful buyers of my residential Ohio home hired a home inspector, and the guy installed a Radon detection unit in the basement as part of his job.

My house is 100 years old and not exactly airtight, even when closed up. Yet the directions to me as this test runs are as follows "Please leave all doors and windows closed during the run of the test, with the exception of normal egress from the house during normal daily activities."

1. Isn't Radon testing a scam to begin with?
I mean, I'm not denying the existence of chemical element 86 (Rn), but is it really that big of a problem that homes are tested for it? Everything I've read on Radon says that unless you live in certain portions of Iowa or the Appalachian region of PA, your chances of being affected are statistically insignificant. I have a feeling that Home Inspectors like adding this little test on because they can scare the potential home buyers into paying for an added (but unnecessary) fee.

2. If Radon can seep through concrete foundations and clay soil and various building structures anyway, what difference does it make if I have my doors and windows open during the Radon test?
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  #2  
Old 08-10-2009, 07:20 AM
billfish678 billfish678 is offline
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Originally Posted by shallora View Post
2. If Radon can seep through concrete foundations and clay soil and various building structures anyway, what difference does it make if I have my doors and windows open during the Radon test?
Because if its all open the stuff can't build up to dangerous levels. Its when buildings are all closed up that problems arise. If you never closed up your house, then closing it up for the test is somewhat misleading. Most folks usually have their house closed up tight for a decent fraction of the year.

I wouldnt say its a SCAM, but IMO the risk is generally pretty low. Then again, once in a great while they find a house that is the equivalent of smoking a gazillion cigarettes a day.
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  #3  
Old 08-10-2009, 07:37 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by shallora View Post
The hopeful buyers of my residential Ohio home hired a home inspector, and the guy installed a Radon detection unit in the basement as part of his job.
Realtor here, not a home or radon inspector. Did your purchase offer permit radon testing? It cannot be done without your permission.

At least that's the case in my state. It's possible your state may be different, but I suggest you read the contract.

I don't think it is a scam, although there may be disreputable testers. If your state has a licensing procedure, it would be good to see if your tester is qualified.

In my neck of the woods, radon testing isn't usually requested by a buyer. The few times it was, the house passed. I have heard others didn't, and was told this is a function of geology, foundation construction and condition.
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  #4  
Old 08-10-2009, 07:47 AM
kayaker kayaker is online now
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When I bought the house I currently own, radon testing was a part of the purchase agreement. The house failed. The seller then had radon remediation (a fan in the basement, basically) and retesting performed, which passed.

ETA: this was in western Pennsylvania

Last edited by kayaker; 08-10-2009 at 07:48 AM.. Reason: added info
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  #5  
Old 08-10-2009, 08:43 AM
HorseloverFat HorseloverFat is offline
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Sure its relatively rare, but do you want to be the guy who buys the radon house?

Its a liability thing. Not to mention, sellers typically do them, so there's no lawsuit after sale. The house buying process is full of stuff like this, to make sure that both parties are willing to close.

Not to mention, radon is scary stuff:

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.
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  #6  
Old 08-10-2009, 08:52 AM
R. P. McMurphy R. P. McMurphy is offline
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
When I bought the house I currently own, radon testing was a part of the purchase agreement. The house failed. The seller then had radon remediation (a fan in the basement, basically) and retesting performed, which passed.

ETA: this was in western Pennsylvania
Same here (but not in Pennsylvania). The new house, which is well sealed, showed radon levels 9 times beyond what is considered acceptable. After the installation of the mitigation unit the levels dropped to less than 1/4 of the acceptable level.

No it's not a scam. It's a matter of identifying a potential, invisible health hazard. Most houses will pass the test. Some won't but it is an easily correctable problem so why not check it out? A radon problem can be very localized. Just because one house in the area passed the test it doesn't mean another one will also pass.

Also, houses stay closed in the winter. That's primarily the time when the radon levels can build up.
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Old 08-10-2009, 01:04 PM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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I've bought and sold a couple of houses over the years, all in southeast Wisconsin.

Every inspector myself and potential buyers used ALL said they would gladly test for radon, but that it was not really necessary and not a one pushed the test.

None of them said it was a scam, though.
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  #8  
Old 08-10-2009, 01:19 PM
HorseloverFat HorseloverFat is offline
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Considering these things are like 10 or 15 bucks at home depot, how much of a scam can they be?
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  #9  
Old 08-10-2009, 01:26 PM
kidchameleon kidchameleon is offline
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Radon side note-

The last company I worked for made radioactive medication and regularly tested their workers. Sometimes they come up contaminated from errors in the restricted area. We'd usually go figure out where the problem was and clean it up. One guy kept coming up contaminated and we couldn't figure out why. Somehow we tested him just after he came into work and he was contaminated. We isolated it to one of his shirts and had it analyzed only to find Radon on it. Ended up his whole family was being exposed to crazy levels of Radon in their suburban Chicago house.
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  #10  
Old 08-11-2009, 06:16 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by HorseloverFat View Post
Its a liability thing. Not to mention, sellers typically do them, so there's no lawsuit after sale. The house buying process is full of stuff like this, to make sure that both parties are willing to close.
Now we're getting into contract law, and states many vary.

But in Wisconsin, what a seller knows, or might reasonably know, must be disclosed to a buyer, and the buyer signs the Real Estate Condition Report supplied by the seller, saying that any conditions disclosed on this report cannot be used as grounds for a later suit.

In areas where radon contamination is rare, it is usually up to the buyer to request and pay for tests, although who pays is negotiable.
Quote:
Originally Posted by HorseloverFat
Considering these things are like 10 or 15 bucks at home depot, how much of a scam can they be?
A professional radon test costs about $150. I'm not sure a $15 home test kit would be equivalent.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartydog
It's a matter of identifying a potential, invisible health hazard. Most houses will pass the test. Some won't but it is an easily correctable problem so why not check it out?
Mitigation may be cheap or expensive depending on the problem, source and solution. I wouldn't assume it is "easily correctable" in all cases.
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  #11  
Old 08-11-2009, 12:44 PM
Kevbo Kevbo is offline
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No, definatly not a scam.

One reason that one house might have a problem when the rest of the neighborhood is fine is due to the fill work done when grading the site. Depending on the souce of the fill, it might produce high levels of radon.

I know this was a huge problem around Grand Junction, CO. In the 1940s and 50s there was uranium mining in the area, and the tailings got used for fill when some of the houses were built.
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  #12  
Old 09-12-2013, 06:46 PM
ri-inspections ri-inspections is offline
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Countless hours of training, 3 licenses, machine cost and fuel use driving back and forth to do the test it does not pay.

If someone was doing 20 tests a week possibly a profitible buisness. But 20 tests equals 40 round trips to a residence.

Most do it including myself as a addition to home inspections.

What do you think the guy said when he was wrapping pipes with asbestos and found out it was a hazerdous material? I am far from a scientist but assure you that the people who work for the epa are much smarter than the ones on this forum.
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  #13  
Old 09-12-2013, 07:03 PM
turtlescanfly turtlescanfly is offline
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Originally Posted by ri-inspections View Post
I am far from a scientist but assure you that the people who work for the epa are much smarter than the ones on this forum.
Whoa, whoa, whoa... thems fightin' words.

Why join a board just to dis the natives? Plus, dude has no idea how wrong he is...
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  #14  
Old 09-12-2013, 07:14 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is online now
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Originally Posted by ri-inspections View Post
. . .What do you think the guy said when he was wrapping pipes with asbestos and found out it was a hazerdous material?. . . .
I'm doing as best as I can.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ri-inspections View Post
. . . I am far from a scientist but assure you that the people who work for the epa are much smarter than the ones on this forum.
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  #15  
Old 09-12-2013, 09:55 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by ri-inspections View Post
I am far from a scientist but assure you that the people who work for the epa are much smarter than the ones on this forum.
At least we know to spell it EPA, if you mean Environmental Protection Agency. Never heard of an epa.
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  #16  
Old 09-12-2013, 11:00 PM
j_sum1 j_sum1 is offline
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Give ri-inspections a break. You don't get to find out how smart this board is without lurking a while and digesting a few posts from Chronos, Asymptotically Fat, Stranger and others.

My question is this. Radon seems to be a US thing. I have never heard of it being a problem anywhere else. Round here they test for termites (which can't be gotten rid of with a fan btw.) Are there other locations that test for Rn in basements? What is peculiar about the US that causes Rn to be a problem?

Last edited by j_sum1; 09-12-2013 at 11:05 PM.. Reason: spelling
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  #17  
Old 09-12-2013, 11:28 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by j_sum1 View Post
My question is this. Radon seems to be a US thing. I have never heard of it being a problem anywhere else.
Not a US only thing. Also detected on the moon.
Quote:
High concentrations of radon can be found in some spring waters and hot springs. The towns of Boulder, Montana; Misasa; Bad Kreuznach, Germany; and the country of Japan have radium-rich springs that emit radon... The activity of radon mineral water reaches 2,000 kBq/m3 in Merano and 4,000 kBq/m3 in Lurisia (Italy).
Quote:
In 1971, Apollo 15 passed 110 km (68 mi) above the Aristarchus plateau on the Moon, and detected a significant rise in alpha particles thought to be caused by the decay of 222Rn. The presence of 222Rn has been inferred later from data obtained from the Lunar Prospector alpha particle spectrometer.

Radon is found in some petroleum. Because radon has a similar pressure and temperature curve to propane, and oil refineries separate petrochemicals based on their boiling points, the piping carrying freshly separated propane in oil refineries can become radioactive because of decaying radon and its products.
Quote:
The phenomenon of heightened radon contamination in homes was discovered by chance in 1985 after the stringent radiation testing conducted at a nuclear power plant entrance revealed that Stanley Watras, an engineer entering the plant, was contaminated by radioactive substances.

Last edited by Musicat; 09-12-2013 at 11:29 PM..
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  #18  
Old 09-13-2013, 12:40 AM
j_sum1 j_sum1 is offline
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Great. Remind me never to build on the moon.

Seriously though, If Radon arises as a result of radioactive decay of minerals in the rocks and because of its density it is capable of accumulating in buildings and this accumulation leads to emission of alpha particles (which it is oft quoted can be stopped by a sheet of paper)...
1. How serious a problem is it really? It seems that it could be mitigated by a number of straightforward mechanisms.
2. Why is it that I have only heard of Radon problems in the context of US houses? Is there some peculiarity to US geology that means exposure to radioactive minerals in populated areas is greater than elsewhere in the world? Or is it that other countries do not recognise the problem and monitor it? Perhaps house design is a factor. Or am I experiencing reporting bias?
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  #19  
Old 09-13-2013, 02:05 AM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j_sum1 View Post
1. How serious a problem is it really? It seems that it could be mitigated by a number of straightforward mechanisms.
Alpha emitters aren't very dangerous in general as the particles are stopped very easily (as you noted). The problem with radon is that it is a gas, and therefore gets inhaled into your lungs where the radiation gets absorbed by your lung tissues. Since these tissues don't have a protective layer like the layer of dead skin cells on the outside of your body, the radiation causes them harm.

While this much isn't really in dispute, the actual danger level of radon is a bit disputed. What everyone seems to agree on is that the risk is greater if you are a smoker (I've never really heard a good explanation for why this is).

FWIW, the EPA claims that it causes 21,000 deaths per year from lung cancer. The EPA website has more details and other statistics:
http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/citguide.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by j_sum1 View Post
2. Why is it that I have only heard of Radon problems in the context of US houses?
I can't speak about other countries. I know that here in the U.S. it's generally only a problem with newer homes. Energy efficient homes don't "breathe" as much as older homes. The greater insulation helps to keep the heat in or out, depending on the season, which reduces your cooling and heating costs. The lack of air transfer means that radon seeping up out of the ground gets trapped in the basement and builds up to higher levels.

As you said, it can be easily mitigated. Houses are tested for radon, and if it is found in high enough concentrations some ventilation is added to allow the radon to disperse instead of accumulating.

Radon is naturally occurring all over the world. It is higher in concentration in some areas than others, but the U.S. isn't particularly saturated with the stuff in any exceptional way.
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  #20  
Old 09-13-2013, 02:44 AM
naita naita is offline
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Originally Posted by j_sum1 View Post
2. Why is it that I have only heard of Radon problems in the context of US houses? Is there some peculiarity to US geology that means exposure to radioactive minerals in populated areas is greater than elsewhere in the world? Or is it that other countries do not recognise the problem and monitor it? Perhaps house design is a factor. Or am I experiencing reporting bias?
How many non-(mainly)US boards do you frequent? How many non-US news sources do you read? For it to be reporting bias you need to be reading a lot of local news in a lot of places.

Radon is a big problem in areas of Norway too. The school building I'm working in right now had two classrooms and the auditorium closed down for weeks last year after testing showed average levels above mandated limits. Sealing foundation cracks and changing the timing on the ventilation fans and retesting to show that the levels had only been too high during the night when the ventilation was off allowed us to start using the rooms again.
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  #21  
Old 09-13-2013, 02:54 AM
naita naita is offline
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Here's a map showing the varying percentage of homes in England and Wales with levels above government standards: http://wordpress.mrreid.org/2011/12/
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  #22  
Old 09-13-2013, 03:42 AM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Originally Posted by ri-inspections View Post
Countless hours of training, 3 licenses, machine cost and fuel use driving back and forth to do the test it does not pay.

If someone was doing 20 tests a week possibly a profitible buisness. But 20 tests equals 40 round trips to a residence.

Most do it including myself as a addition to home inspections.

What do you think the guy said when he was wrapping pipes with asbestos and found out it was a hazerdous material? I am far from a scientist but assure you that the people who work for the epa are much smarter than the ones on this forum.
And some of us have a background in hazmat and the nuclear power industry ...
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  #23  
Old 09-13-2013, 06:33 AM
Bill Door Bill Door is offline
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The average radon exposure level in the United States is 1.3 pCi/L. The average radon exposure level in Warren County Ohio is 4.8 pCi/L, with 43% of the indoor air tested being higher than 4.0 pCi/L (The level at which the EPA recommends remediation) with another 25% being above 2.0 pCi/L.

When I sold my home there I had it remediated after the test. I'd have preferred to skip the test, and just remediate without it on general principles, because remediation is cheap, and helps even if the levels are down in the 2.0 pCi/L range, but I wasn't paying for it, and the relocation company did it their way, test, remediation, retest. The whole thing came to less than $700, and the testing ended up being more expensive than the fix.

Last edited by Bill Door; 09-13-2013 at 06:34 AM..
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  #24  
Old 09-13-2013, 09:00 AM
zwede zwede is offline
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Originally Posted by j_sum1 View Post
My question is this. Radon seems to be a US thing.
Not at all. My parents house in Sweden tested high for radon. Basement ventilation brought the levels down to an acceptable level. Radon is a big problem in Scandinavia.
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  #25  
Old 09-13-2013, 02:46 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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We have it in some parts of the South-West here. It come from granite rocks, as I recall.
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  #26  
Old 09-13-2013, 03:30 PM
deltasigma deltasigma is offline
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United Nuclear has a radon detector I use that I think reads out in pico-Cu/liter. My reading is usually somewhere between the mid 4's and 5's. I've checked against the EPA map for my area and as I recall it's in the general ballpark.

Last edited by deltasigma; 09-13-2013 at 03:30 PM..
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  #27  
Old 09-13-2013, 06:19 PM
48Willys 48Willys is offline
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Originally Posted by ri-inspections View Post
I am far from a scientist but assure you that the people who work for the epa are much smarter than the ones on this forum.
First, welcome to this board. I hope that you find it as stimulating as I do!

IME, In My Experience, The local EPA personnel are NOT the sharpest tools in the shed. One thing that they should understand is that when a limit is set at xx ppm, dilution with an inert material will bring down the ppm count. It is simple math involved here. However I could not get our local EPA representative to understand this.

I would bet MONEY that most folks on this MB, either know this, or could be shown the math such that they would understand this.

Now, this is only one or two EPA personnel, but these folks are not the brightest. If they are smarter then the folks on this forum, we are in deep stuff!!

BTW, I lurked for quite a while before joining this MB. I rarely join MBs, as I do not have a lot of time to spend on them. I lurked for over two years before taking the plunge. I read a lot of the old threads. IMHO this is one of the MBs that is populated by some very intelligent posters.

Once again, Welcome!!
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  #28  
Old 09-13-2013, 08:16 PM
BwanaBob BwanaBob is offline
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Marylander checking in. We bailed on a potential purchase because it failed inspection miserably (rot, asbestos). To add insult to injury, we had a radon test performed and it was at 10x max level considered safe. It was a finished basement too. I felt awful for the owners because they had their kids' bedrooms in that basement.
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  #29  
Old 09-20-2013, 05:17 PM
44Luther 44Luther is offline
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Anybody who is considering buying a radon testing kit (or doing "remediation") needs to educate themselves, i.e. don't be a sucker. Read this: http://www.forensic-applications.com/radon/radon.html from REAL health physics scientists, not the EPA. A favorite saying of my Dad's, (who worked on the Manhattan Project) "If all this stuff was really as dangerous as they say it is, we'd ALL be dead." Enjoy your education.
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Old 09-21-2013, 02:28 AM
naita naita is offline
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Originally Posted by 44Luther View Post
Anybody who is considering buying a radon testing kit (or doing "remediation") needs to educate themselves, i.e. don't be a sucker. Read this: http://www.forensic-applications.com/radon/radon.html from REAL health physics scientists, not the EPA. A favorite saying of my Dad's, (who worked on the Manhattan Project) "If all this stuff was really as dangerous as they say it is, we'd ALL be dead." Enjoy your education.
Reading web pages made by random people disagreeing with official guidelines is not "educating yourself". The average person is in no position to judge who is a "REAL scientist" and the internet is full of seemingly competent misinformation.

Is it possible the linear principle of risk is flawed for radiation, and radon level guidelines are unnecessarily low, sure, but unless one is an expert in the field one has no business trying to determine if that is so, and reading websites by purported experts is a particularly poor way of judging the issue.
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Old 09-21-2013, 05:49 PM
Bill Door Bill Door is offline
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(snip)A favorite saying of my Dad's, (who worked on the Manhattan Project) "If all this stuff was really as dangerous as they say it is, we'd ALL be dead." Enjoy your education.
Why don't you bring him around to tell us himself?
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  #32  
Old 09-21-2013, 10:16 PM
pdunderhill pdunderhill is offline
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Radon outside the US

To add this :http://www.radonkit.co.uk/pages/radon_in_cornwall.html
to the thread Radon is not uncommon in the UK, and probably worldwide.

Can't immediately cite but a good look at geographical base rock, sorry no Geologist me!, might give you a better grasp.
P.
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  #33  
Old 09-21-2013, 10:58 PM
Pai325 Pai325 is offline
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I told my daughter to do it when she bought her house in Northern Illinois, and the house failed. The sellers had to pay for remediation. I don't think it's a scam.
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  #34  
Old 09-21-2013, 11:10 PM
Noel Prosequi Noel Prosequi is offline
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Originally Posted by j_sum1 View Post
Great. Remind me never to build on the moon.

Seriously though, If Radon arises as a result of radioactive decay of minerals in the rocks and because of its density it is capable of accumulating in buildings and this accumulation leads to emission of alpha particles (which it is oft quoted can be stopped by a sheet of paper)...
1. How serious a problem is it really? It seems that it could be mitigated by a number of straightforward mechanisms.
2. Why is it that I have only heard of Radon problems in the context of US houses? Is there some peculiarity to US geology that means exposure to radioactive minerals in populated areas is greater than elsewhere in the world? Or is it that other countries do not recognise the problem and monitor it? Perhaps house design is a factor. Or am I experiencing reporting bias?
I live in Queensland, Australia. We typically don't do cellars; I had to ask on this board what a "root cellar" was. Our traditional architecture is to build homes out of wood on stilts. And we tend not to close up even ground level rooms in winter. We don't talk about radon as a problem here, but I suspect the reason is architecture rather than geology.
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  #35  
Old 09-22-2013, 09:51 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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Here in Eastern Missouri probably 1 in 20 houses built in the last 30 years has had a remediation system installed. In some neighborhoods it's more like 1 in 3. And plenty more haven't been sold since they were built and hence most of those owners don't know whether they have it or not.

Just another geographical data point here. I make no statement plus or minus on the ratio of actual health risk to the public's perception of health risk nor on the wisdom (or lack of same) of official public policy.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 09-22-2013 at 09:52 PM.. Reason: Typos ...
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  #36  
Old 02-26-2014, 06:26 PM
handymom handymom is offline
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Tester should not be same as installer!

Any company that does the testing, and then does the installation should be suspect. Why wouldn't they want a positive? If you can do your own test, purchased at a hardware store, and then make your own decision about mitigation, at least you know the testers are not benefiting from a positive.

Can anyone backup the claim that radon gas is too heavy to be ventilated out?
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  #37  
Old 02-26-2014, 09:43 PM
buddy431 buddy431 is offline
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Originally Posted by handymom View Post
Any company that does the testing, and then does the installation should be suspect. Why wouldn't they want a positive? If you can do your own test, purchased at a hardware store, and then make your own decision about mitigation, at least you know the testers are not benefiting from a positive.

Can anyone backup the claim that radon gas is too heavy to be ventilated out?
It can be ventilated out. That's almost always how mitigation is done. The trouble is that many newer houses are sealed up pretty tight, and so it doesn't get ventilated out.
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  #38  
Old 02-26-2014, 09:45 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by handymom View Post
Any company that does the testing, and then does the installation should be suspect. Why wouldn't they want a positive? If you can do your own test, purchased at a hardware store, and then make your own decision about mitigation, at least you know the testers are not benefiting from a positive.

Can anyone backup the claim that radon gas is too heavy to be ventilated out?
Despite your opinion there are plenty of reputable companies out there that do both testing and installation of radon mitigation equipment. Generally home owners are unreliable for accurate testing, if your testing for radon you want the test to be done by someone with expert knowledge of radon to ensure the perimeters of the testing fit the situation. If a company is installing equipment they need to test anyway to make sure they engineer the equipment correctly. It makes sense to have one reputable company do both the testing and treatment.

The reason a company wouldn't want to report a positive and install equipment where no radon exists is it would be fraud to do so.

It is important to research any company you hire because there are fraudulent entities but to assume all entities would commit fraud if possible is unreasonably paranoid.

Last edited by boytyperanma; 02-26-2014 at 09:45 PM..
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  #39  
Old 02-26-2014, 09:57 PM
johnpost johnpost is online now
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zombie or no

if you get a positive test from a company on your home then do a self test if you doubt it. follow the directions and if you get a positive test also you could feel it is OK.
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