Specialty Tests

Water

 Water Quality and Common Problems

Water Quality and Common Problems

If we think back to our school days, most of us can remember studying the "hydrological cycle". You remember the process of how water vapor condenses in the atmosphere and falls to earth as precipitation. Once on the surface of the earth, most of the water evaporates back into the atmosphere, where it will again condense and fall back to earth as precipitation. About 30% of the precipitation, however, does not evaporate. Instead, it seeps into the ground or runs off into streams, rivers, or lakes. As the water seeps into the ground or as it flows over the surface, it dissolves minerals and other substances contained in the ground. Under the surface, the water tends to collect in porous portions called 'aquifers.' These aquifers are the source of our well water.

Points To Keep In Mind

  • Water as found in nature, will always have some substances dissolved in it.
  • It will always have the potential to have particles suspended in it.
  • It will always have the potential to be a suitable home to disease causing organisms.


This is true of "fresh" mountain streams, well water, and even municipally treated water systems. To achieve "pure water", or anything close to that goal, water must be filtered or treated in some way.

As you begin to see, the problem for us to solve will depend upon what the water has had contact with. These conditions can vary greatly, not only from one region of the country to another, but also within the same general location. Water drawn from wells in the same area may not be exactly the same. The quality of water from a municipality owned treatment facility will depend upon the age and condition of the equipment. Even though the water may be classified as safe to drink, the aesthetic quality may be less than desirable.

Fortunately, our knowledge of the nature of water has increased steadily over the years. The most frequently occurring problems have been studied very closely. We now know the symptoms, the cause of the symptoms, and how to cure the problem itself. Sometimes the symptoms are easy to read and easy to cure. Other times, several problems exist in the water at the same time. Then it gets more complicated, and usually more costly to correct.

Let's examine these water problems as they will be reported to you by your customers ... the symptoms they see, taste, smell or fear. Along with the symptoms we will provide the cause of the condition, so you will be able to explain to our customer exactly what is going on with their water supply.

Common Water Problems

HARDNESS (Calcium and Magnesium)
The term hardness refers to the quantity of dissolved calcium and magnesium in water. These minerals, which come primarily from limestone type rock formations, are found to some degree in almost all natural waters. Calcium and magnesium cause problems for two principal reasons:

  • When the water is warmed, they precipitate out of solution and form a hard, rock-like scale. This scale accelerates corrosion, restricts flow, and reduces heat transfer in water heaters and boilers.
  • When they combine with soap, they react to form a curd, which interferes with cleaning, dries out skin, and leaves deposits on plumbing and clothes (bathtub ring; ring around the collar).


Waters which naturally contain very little hardness can also be problematic because they may be corrosive in some applications (such as acidity).

For some applications, sequestering agents (Siliphos) are good for hardness conditions under 15 gpg. The only practical method for hardness removal above 15 gpg in residential applications is through cation exchange process employed by water softeners (also called conditioners).

Acidity (pH)

Water which contains excess acidity tends to act aggressively towards plumbing and fixtures, causing corrosion and staining (i.e.-blue green stains on fixtures from copper pipes). Relative acidity/alkalinity is measured on the pH scale, ranging from 0- 1 4, where 7 is neutral, numbers lower than 7 are progressively more acidic, and numbers higher than seven are increasingly alkaline (basic). The pH value refers not to the quantity of acidity, but rather to the relative acidity/alkalinity of a particular sample.

Alkalinity acts as a buffer to deactivate the acidity, a process called neutralization. For example, limestone (calcium carbonate) is often applied to soil to offset the acidity which comes from acid rain and decaying organic material. The acceptable range for water is 6.5-8.5.

Acidity cannot be removed from water. However, it can be neutralized by raising the pH with alkalinity. This can be done by injecting a highly basic (alkaline) solution with a feed pump or by passing the water through a bed of processed limestone or similar material.

Iron (Fe)

The presence of Iron is a very common water quality problem, particularly in water from deep wells. Water containing even a significant quantity of iron may appear clear when drawn, but will rapidly turn red upon exposure to air. This process is called oxidation, and involves the conversion of ferrous (dissolved) iron, which is highly soluble, to ferric (precipitated) iron, which is largely insoluble. The ferric iron then causes red/brown staining on clothes, fixtures, etc.

Iron concentration is measured in ppm or mg/l (milligrams per liter, where 1 ppm = 1 mg/l). Staining usually becomes a problem at concentrations greater than 0.3 ppm. Removal is through ion exchange (water softener) or oxidation/filtration (APIR).

Manganese (Mn)

Manganese is a metal similar to iron which causes a grey/black stain. It can cause staining in concentrations as low as 0.05 ppm. Manganese is removed in a manner similar to iron, although oxidation is more difficult, requiring a pH of at least 8.5.

Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S)

Hydrogen Sulphide is a gas which smells strongly like rotten eggs. It results from the decay of organic matter with organic sulphur and the presence of certain types of bacteria. Even very low concentrations are offensive as well as highly corrosive (silver tarnishes almost immediately upon contact with H2S).

Because it is in a gaseous form, H2S cannot be collected in a sample bottle for laboratory analysis. Therefore, its presence must be reported when a sample is submitted for a treatment recommendation. It can be removed by oxidation/filtration, aeration, or well sanitization.

Turbidity

Turbidity is a measure of suspended particles in water and can range from large particles which settle out of solution rapidly (such as sand), to extremely fine sediment which may stay suspended in solution even after standing for hours. Treatment depends upon size, which is measured in microns.

Tastes and Odors

Most tastes and odors are caused by the presence of organic matter and chlorine. The vast majority of these can be removed with activated carbon.

Organic Chemical Contaminants

The presence of toxic chemicals at various concentrations has been widely documented in many water supplies. Detection can be difficult as these contaminants often have no taste or odor. Treatment depends on type and concentration. These chemicals may be industrial solvents or agricultural pesticides and herbicides. One of the most common is Trihalomethane (THM) which is formed when chlorine in the water reacts with natural organic matter.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

TDS is the sum of the mineral salts in water and if too high can result in objectionable taste, cloudy ice, interference with the flavor of foods and beverages and scale left behind in cookware. Generally speaking, the lower the TDS the more acceptable the drinking water. TDS of 1,000 ppm or more is unacceptable for drinking water. Reverse Osmosis (R0) process has proven itself as the most practical and cost effective method of correcting problems caused by high TDS.

Nitrates (NO3)

Nitrates are inorganic chemicals dissolved in some water supplies as a result of feedlot and agricultural activities. Nitrate levels over 45 mg/L as actual NO3 (or 10 mg/L as Nitrogen, N) can be a serious health risk to infants and children. Reverse Osmosis has proven itself as an effective method of reducing Nitrates to safe levels.

Heavy Metals-Lead (Pb);Cadmium (Cd);Mercury (Hg);Arsenic (As);Selenium (Se);Chromium (Cr)

The so-called heavy metals are toxic elemental metals such as Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, and Arsenic that find their way into water supplies from natural and industrial sources as well as home plumbing. These metals, especially Lead, can seriously affect the mental and neurological development of infants and children. Reverse Osmosis (R0) is recognized as the most practical method of reducing Lead to insignificant levels in drinking water. Carbon Block technology that incorporates ceramic ion exchange media is also an effective method of reducing lead.

Radium 226/228 (Ra)

Radium occurs in ground water due to the radioactive decay of Uranium in geologic formation. There is a health risk if the Radium level exceeds 20 pecocuries per liter (pCi/L). Cation exchange water softeners using proper regeneration procedures are effective in reducing Radium for POE applications. Reverse Osmosis systems are effective for reducing Radium for POU applications.

Our current testing procedure and sampling will test for the following:

  • Coliform Bacteria
  • E-coli
  • Nitrite-N
  • Nitrate-N
  • pH
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Chloride
  • Hardness
  • Sodium
  • Lead-Source
  • Arsenic

Mold

Mold Information

Mold Information

What is mold?

Molds are fungi. Molds grow throughout the natural and built environment. Tiny particles of mold are present in indoor and outdoor air. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soil, foods, plant matter, and other items. Molds produce microscopic cells called "spores" which are very tiny and spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions.

What does mold need to grow?

Mold only needs a few simple things to grow and multiply:

  • Moisture
  • Nutrients
  • Suitable place to grow

Of these, controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth.

Should I be concerned about mold in my home?

Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods and furnishings may be damaged.

Health Effects

Can mold make me and my family sick?

Mold can affect the health of people who are exposed to it. People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing spores or other tiny fragments. People can also be exposed through skin contact with mold contaminants (for example, by touching moldy surfaces) and by swallowing it.

The type and severity of health effects that mold may produce are usually difficult to predict. The risks can vary greatly from one location to another, over time, and from person to person.

What symptoms might I see?

What symptoms might I see?

The most common health problems caused by indoor mold are allergy symptoms. Although other and more serious problems can occur, people exposed to mold commonly report problems such as:

  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Cough
  • Wheeze/breathing difficulties
  • Sore throat
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Upper respiratory infections (including sinus)

Are the risks greater for some people?

There is wide variability in how different people are affected by indoor mold. However, the long term presence of indoor mold growth may eventually become unhealthy for anyone. The following types of people may be affected more severely and sooner than others:

  • Infants and children
  • Elderly people
  • Individuals with respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies and asthma
  • Persons having weakened immune systems (for example, people with HIV infection, chemotherapy patients, organ transplant recipients)
  • Those with special health concerns should consult a medical professional if they feel their health is affected by indoor mold. Are some molds more hazardous than others?

Some types of mold can produce chemical compounds (called mycotoxins) although they do not always do so. Molds that are able to produce toxins are common. In some circumstances, the toxins produced by indoor mold may cause health problems. However, all indoor mold growth is potentially harmful and should be removed promptly, no matter what types of mold is present or whether it can produce toxins.

Home Investigation

Home Investigation

How do I tell if I have a mold problem?

Investigate, don't test. The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.

Look for visible mold growth (may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green). Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.

  • Search areas with noticeable mold odors.
  • Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage.
  • Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls, ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?
  • Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors).
  • Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.

Should I test for mold?

We do not recommend testing for mold yourself. Instead, you should simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors. Testing should never take the place of visual inspection and it should never use up resources that are needed to correct moisture problems and remove all visible growth.

Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. However, mold testing is rarely useful for trying to answer questions about health concerns.

Mold Clean-up and Removal

To clean up and remove indoor mold growth, follow steps 1-6 as they apply to your home.

1-Identify and Fix the Moisture Problem - the most important step in solving a mold problem is to identify and correct the moisture sources that allowed the growth in the first place. Common indoor moisture sources include:

  • Flooding
  • Condensation (caused by indoor humidity that is too high or surfaces that are too cold)
  • Movement through basement walls and slab
  • Roof leaks
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Overflow from tubs, sinks, or toilets
  • Firewood stored indoors
  • Humidifier use
  • Inadequate venting of kitchen and bath humidity
  • Improper venting of combustion appliances
  • Failure to vent clothes dryer exhaust outdoors (including electric dryers)
  • Line drying laundry indoors
  • House plants - watering them can generate large amounts of moisture

To keep indoor surfaces as dry as possible, try to maintain the home's relative humidity between 20-40 percent in the winter and less than 60 percent the rest of the year. You can purchase devices to measure relative humidity at some home supply stores. Ventilation, air circulation near cold surfaces, dehumidification, and efforts to minimize the production of moisture in the home are all very important in controlling high humidity that frequently causes mold growth in our cold climate.

2-Begin Drying All Wet Materials - as soon as possible, begin drying any materials that are wet. For severe moisture problems, use fans and dehumidifiers and move wet items away from walls and off floors. Check with equipment rental companies or restoration firms to see if you can rent fans and dehumidifiers.

3-Remove and Dispose of Mold Contaminated Materials - items which have absorbed moisture (porous materials) and which have mold growing on them need to be removed, bagged and thrown out. Such materials may include sheet rock, insulation, plaster, carpet/carpet pad, ceiling tiles, wood products (other than solid wood), and paper products. Likewise, any such porous materials that have contacted sewage should also be bagged and thrown away. Non-porous materials with surface mold growth may be saved if they are cleaned well and kept dry (see step 4).

Take Steps to Protect Yourself - the amount of mold particles in air can increase greatly when mold is disturbed. Consider using protective equipment when handling or working around mold contaminated materials. The following equipment can help minimize exposure to mold:
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye goggles
  • Outer clothing (long sleeves and long pants) that can be easily removed in the work area and laundered or discarded
  • Medium-efficiency or high-efficiency filter dust mask (these can be found at safety equipment suppliers, hardware stores, or some other large stores that sell home repair supplies) -- at a minimum, use an N-95 or equivalent dust mask


Take Steps to Protect Others - plan and perform all work to minimize the amount of dust generated. The following actions can help minimize the spread of mold spores:
  • Enclose all moldy materials in plastic (bags or sheets) before carrying through the home
  • Hang plastic sheeting to separate the work area from the rest of the home
  • Remove outer layer of work clothing in the work area and wash separately or bag
  • Damp clean the entire work area to pick up settled contaminants in dust


4-Clean Surfaces - surface mold growing on non-porous materials such as hard plastic, concrete, glass, metal, and solid wood can usually be cleaned. Cleaning must remove and capture the mold contamination, because dead spores and mold particles still cause health problems if they are left in place.
  • Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces using a stiff brush, hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner
  • Collect excess cleaning liquid with a wet/dry vacuum, mop or sponge
  • Rinse area with clean water and collect excess rinse water


5-Disinfect Surfaces (if desired)1 - after cleaning has removed all visible mold and other soiling from contaminated surfaces, a disinfectant may be used to kill mold missed by the cleaning. In the case of sewage contamination, disinfection must be performed. Contact your home inspector for advice.
Mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water and apply to surfaces where mold growth was visible before cleaning. The solution can be applied with a spray bottle, garden sprayer, it can be sponged on, or applied by other methods. Collect any run-off of bleach solution with a wet/ dry vacuum, sponge or mop. However, do not rinse or wipe the bleach solution off the areas being treated -- allow it to dry on the surface.

Always handle bleach with caution. Never mix bleach with ammonia -- toxic chlorine gas may result. Bleach can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Provide fresh air (for example, open a window or door). Protect skin and eyes from contact with bleach. Test solution on a small area before treatment, since bleach is very corrosive and may damage some materials.

6-Remain on Mold Alert - Continue looking for signs of moisture problems or return of mold growth. Be particularly alert to moisture in areas of past growth. If mold returns, repeat cleaning steps and consider using a stronger solution to disinfect the area again. Regrowth may signal that the material should be removed or that moisture is not yet controlled.
When can we rebuild?
Rebuilding and refurnishing must wait until all affected materials have dried completely. Be patient it takes time to dry out wet building materials.

When Can We Rebuild?

Rebuilding and refurnishing must wait until all affected materials have dried completely. Be patient it takes time to dry out wet building materials.

To properly kill mold, bleach may not be the answer. We recommend consulting a qualified professional mold mitigator to properly disinfect the areas of concern. Simply cleaning the areas with mold have proven NOT EFFECTIVE in killing the mold.

Radon

Maine's Hot Zones for Radon (per the EPA)

"Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon"

"Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon"

(partial content from the www.epa.gov website)

Office of Air and Radiation (OAR),
Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (ORIA) (6609J)
402-K-00-008, July 2000

EPA Recommends:

EPA Recommends:

  • If you are buying a home or selling your home, have it tested for radon.
  • For a new home, ask if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested.
  • Fix the home if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
  • Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases, may be reduced.
  • Take steps to prevent device interference when conducting a radon test.
Radon is estimated to cause thousands of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.

* Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA's 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2002 National Safety Council Reports.

OVERVIEW

This Guide answers important questions about radon and lung cancer risk. It also answers questions about testing and fixing for anyone buying or selling a home.

Radon Is a Cancer-Causing, Radioactive Gas

You cannot see, smell, or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

  • National Academy of Sciences Report on Radon
    In February 1998, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its report on radon and lung cancer, The Health Effects of Exposure to Indoor Radon (the BEIR VI report). The NAS is an independent, non-governmental, scientific organization. The NAS estimates that radon causes between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States and that 12 percent of all lung cancer deaths are linked to radon. The BEIR VI Committee (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) concluded that after smoking, radon is the second leading cause of death due to lung cancer in the United States.

You Should Test for Radon

Testing is the only way to find out your home's radon levels. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

You Can Fix a Radon Problem

If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.

If You Are Selling a Home...

EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market and, if necessary, lower your radon levels. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point.

If You Are Buying a Home...



EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you consider buying. Ask the seller for their radon test results. If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for information they have about the system.

If the home has not yet been tested, you should have the housed tested.

If you are having a new home built, there are features that can be incorporated into your home during construction to reduce radon levels.

The radon testing guidelines in this Guide have been developed specifically to deal with the time-sensitive nature of home purchases and sales, and the potential for radon device interference. These guidelines are slightly different from the guidelines in other EPA publications which provide radon testing and reduction information for non-real estate situations.

This Guide recommends three short-term testing options for real estate transactions. EPA also recommends testing a home in the lowest level which is currently suitable for occupancy, since a buyer may choose to live in a lower area of the home than that used by the seller.

1. Why Do You Need to Test for Radon?

a. Radon Has Been Found In Homes All Over the U.S.

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can also enter your home through well water. Your home can trap radon inside.

Any home can have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.

Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more). Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state. Contact your state radon office for information about radon in your area.

b. EPA and the Surgeon General Recommend That You Test Your Home

Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

You cannot predict radon levels based on state, local, and neighborhood radon measurements. Do not rely on radon test results taken in other homes in the neighborhood to estimate the radon level in your home. Homes which are next to each other can have different radon levels. Testing is the only way to find out what your home's radon level is.

In some areas, companies may offer different types of radon service agreements. Some agreements let you pay a one-time fee that covers both testing and radon mitigation, if needed. Contact your state radon office to find out if these are available in your state.

  • Surgeon General of the United States Health Advisory
    "Indoor radon gas is a national health problem. Radon causes thousands of deaths each year. Millions of homes have elevated radon levels. Most homes should be tested for radon. When elevated levels are confirmed, the problem should be corrected."

2. I'm Selling a Home. What Should I Do?

a. If Your Home Has Already Been Tested for Radon...

If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your home for radon, review the Radon Testing Checklist to make sure that the test was done correctly. If so, provide your test results to the buyer.

No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new test especially if:

  • The Radon Testing Checklist items were not met;
  • The last test is not recent, e.g., within two years;
  • You have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or
  • The buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.


A buyer may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.

b. If Your Home Has Not Yet Been Tested for Radon...

Have a test taken as soon as possible. If you can, test your home before putting it on the market. You should test in the lowest level of the home which is suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level that you currently live in or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without renovations.

The radon test result is important information about your home's radon level. Some states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific testing protocol. If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or EPA's Radon Testing Checklist. If you hire a contractor to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.

You can determine a service provider's qualifications to perform radon measurements or to mitigate your home in several ways. Check with your state radon office. Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified, or registered. Most states can provide you with a list of knowledgeable radon service providers doing business in the state. In states that don't regulate radon services, ask the contractor if they hold a professional proficiency or certification credential. Such programs usually provide members with a photo-ID card, which indicates their qualification(s) and its expiration date. If in doubt, you should check with their credentialing organization. Alternatively, ask the contractor if they've successfully completed formal training appropriate for testing or mitigation, e.g., a course in radon measurement or radon mitigation.

  • A note on what qualified may mean:
    You should first call your state radon office for information on qualified radon service providers and state-specific radon measurement or mitigation requirements. See Section 9 for information on which states have certification, licensing, or registration programs. For up-to-date information on state radon program offices, click this link. EPA's detailed and technical guidance on radon measurement and mitigation is included in Section 8; however, state requirements or guidance may be more stringent. Visit EPA's web site on radon proficiency for links to private sector radon credentialing programs.

3. I'm Buying a Home. What Should I Do?

a. If the Home Has Already Been Tested for Radon...

If you are thinking of buying a home, you may decide to accept an earlier test result from the seller, or ask the seller for a new test to be conducted by a qualified radon tester. Before you accept the seller's test, you should determine:

  • The results of previous testing;
  • Who conducted the previous test: the homeowner, a radon professional, or some other person;
  • Where in the home the previous test was taken, especially if you may plan to live in a lower level of the home. For example, the test may have been taken on the first floor. However, if you want to use the basement as living space, test there; and
  • What, if any, structural changes, alterations, or changes in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system have been made to the house since the test was done. Such changes may affect radon levels.


If you accept the seller's test, make sure that the test followed the Radon Testing Checklist.

If you decide that a new test is needed, discuss it with the seller as soon as possible. If you decide to use a qualified radon tester, contact your state radon office to obtain a copy of their approved list of radon testing companies.

b. If the Home Has Not Yet Been Tested for Radon...

Make sure that a radon test is done as soon as possible. Consider including provisions in the contract specifying:

  • Where the test will be located;
  • Who should conduct the test;
  • What type of test to do;
  • When to do the test;
  • How the seller and the buyer will share the test results and test costs (if necessary); and
  • When radon mitigation measures will be taken and who will pay for them.
Make sure that the test is done in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means the lowest level that you are going to use as living space which is finished or does not require renovations prior to use. A state or local radon official or qualified radon tester can help you make some of these decisions.

If you decide to finish or renovate an unfinished area of the home in the future, a radon test should be taken before starting the project and after the project is finished. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon-reduction system before (or during) renovations rather than afterwards.

4. I'm Buying or Building a New Home. How Can I Protect My Family?

a. Why Should I Buy a Radon-Resistant Home?

Radon-resistant techniques work. When installed properly and completely, these simple and inexpensive passive techniques can help to reduce radon levels. In addition, installing them at the time of construction makes it easier to reduce radon levels further if the passive techniques don't reduce radon levels below 4 pCi/L. Radon-resistant techniques may also help to lower moisture levels and those of other soil-gases. Radon-resistant techniques:

  • Making Upgrading Easy: Even if built to be radon-resistant, every new home should be tested for radon after occupancy. If you have a test result of 4 pCi/L or more, a vent fan can easily be added to the passive system to make it an active system and further reduce radon levels.
  • Are Cost-Effective: Building radon-resistant features into the house during construction is easier and cheaper than fixing a radon problem from scratch later. Let your builder know that radon-resistant features are easy to install using common building materials.
  • Are Cost-Effective: Building radon-resistant features into the house during construction is easier and cheaper than fixing a radon problem from scratch later. Let your builder know that radon-resistant features are easy to install using common building materials.


In a new home, the cost to install passive radon-resistant features during construction is usually between $350 and $500. In some areas, the cost may be as low as $100. A qualified mitigator will charge about $300 to add a vent fan to a passive system, making it an active system and further reducing radon levels. In an existing home, it usually costs between $800 and $2,500 to install a radon mitigation system.

b. What Are Radon-Resistant Features?

Radon-resistant techniques (features) may vary for different foundations and site requirements. If you're having a house built, you can learn about EPA's Model Standards (and architectural drawings) and explain the techniques to your builder. If your new house was built (or will be built) to be radon-resistant, it will include these basic elements:

  1. Gas-Permeable Layer: This layer is placed beneath the slab or flooring system to allow the soil gas to move freely underneath the house. In many cases, the material used is a 4-inch layer of clean gravel. This gas-permeable layer is used only in homes with basement and slab-on-grade foundations; it is not used in homes with crawlspace foundations.
  2. Plastic Sheeting: Plastic sheeting is placed on top of the gas-permeable layer and under the slab to help prevent the soil gas from entering the home. In crawl spaces, the sheeting (with seams sealed) is placed directly over the crawlspace floor.
  3. Sealing and Caulking: All below-grade openings in the foundation and walls are sealed to reduce soil gas entry into the home.
  4. Vent Pipe: A 3- or 4-inch PVC pipe (or other gas-tight pipe) runs from the gas-permeable layer through the house to the roof, to safely vent radon and other soil gases to the outside.
  5. Junction Boxes: An electrical junction box is included in the attic to make the wiring and installation of a vent fan easier. For example, you decide to activate the passive system because your test result showed an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more). A separate junction box is placed in the living space to power the vent fan alarm. An alarm is installed along with the vent fan to indicate when the vent fan is not operating properly.

5. How Can I Get Reliable Radon Test Results?

Radon testing is easy and the only way to find out if you have a radon problem in your home.

a. Types of Radon Devices

Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to detect it. When you're ready to test your home, you can order a radon test kit by mail from a qualified radon measurement services provider or laboratory. You can also hire a qualified radon tester, very often a home inspector, who will use a radon device(s) suitable to your situation. The most common types of radon testing devices are listed below. As new testing devices are developed, you may want to check with your state radon office before you test to get the most up-to-date information.

Passive Devices

Passive radon testing devices do not need power to function. These include charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, and electret ion chamber detectors which are available in hardware, drug, and other stores; they can also be ordered by mail or phone. These devices are exposed to the air in the home for a specified period of time and then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Both short-term and long-term passive devices are generally inexpensive. Some of these devices may have features that offer more resistance to test interference or disturbance than other passive devices. Qualified radon testers may use any of these devices to measure the home's radon level.

Active Devices

Active radon testing devices require power to function. These include continuous radon monitors and continuous working level monitors. They continuously measure and record the amount of radon or its decay products in the air. Many of these devices provide a report of this information which can reveal any unusual or abnormal swings in the radon level during the test period. A qualified tester can explain this report to you. In addition, some of these devices are specifically designed to deter and detect test interference. Some technically advanced active devices offer anti-interference features. Although these tests may cost more, they may ensure a more reliable result.

b. General Information for All Devices

A state or local radon official can explain the differences between devices and recommend the ones which are most appropriate for your needs and expected testing conditions.

Make sure to use a radon measurement device from a qualified laboratory. Certain precautions should be followed to avoid interference during the test period. See the Radon Testing Checklist for more information on how to get a reliable test result.

  • Radon Test Device Placement
    EPA recommends that testing device(s) be placed in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level (such as a basement), which a buyer could use for living space without renovations. The test should be conducted in a room to be used regularly (like a family room, living room, playroom, den or bedroom); do not test in a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or hallway. Usually, the buyer decides where to locate the radon test, based on their expected use of the home. A buyer and seller should explicitly discuss and agree on the test location to avoid any misunderstanding. Their decision should be clearly communicated to the person performing the test.

c. Preventing or Detecting Test Interference

There is a potential for test interference in real estate transactions. There are several ways to prevent or detect test interference:

  • Use a test device that frequently records radon or decay product levels to detect unusual swings;
  • Employ a motion detector to determine whether the test device has been moved or testing conditions have changed;
  • Use a proximity detector to reveal the presence of people in the room which may correlate to possible changes in radon levels during the test;
  • Record the barometric pressure to identify weather conditions which may have affected the test;
  • Record the temperature record to help assess whether doors and windows have been opened;
  • Apply tamper-proof seals to windows to ensure closed house conditions; and
  • Have the seller/occupant sign a non-interference agreement.


Home buyers and sellers should consult a qualified radon test provider about the use of these precautions.

d. Length of Time to Test

There Are Two General Ways To Test Your Home for Radon:

Because radon levels vary from day to day and season to season, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you your year-round average radon level. However, if you need results quickly, a short-term test may be used to decide whether to fix the home.

Short-Term Testing

The quickest way to test is with short-term tests. Short-term tests remain in your home from two days to 90 days, depending on the device. There are two groups of devices which are more commonly used for short-term testing. The passive device group includes alpha track detectors, charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation detectors, and electret ion chambers. The active device group consists of different types of continuous monitors.

  • Whether you test for radon yourself or hire a state-certified tester or a privately certified tester, all radon tests should be taken for a minimum of 48 hours. A longer period of testing is required for some devices.
Long-Term Testing

Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. Alpha track, and electret ion chamber detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test will give you a reading that is more likely to tell you your home's year-round average radon level than a short-term test. If time permits (more than 90 days) long-term tests can be used to confirm initial short-term results. When long-term test results are 4 pCi/L or higher, EPA recommends fixing the home.

e. Doing a Short-Term Test...

If you are testing in a real estate transaction and you need results quickly, any of the following three options for short-term Tests are acceptable in determining whether the home should be fixed. Any real estate test for radon should include steps to prevent or detect device interference with the test device.

  • When Choosing a Short-Term Testing Option...
    There are trade-offs among the short-term testing options. Two tests taken at the same time (simultaneous) would improve the precision of this radon test. One test followed by another test (sequential) would most likely give a better representation of the seasonal average. Both active and passive devices may have features which help to prevent test interference. Your state radon office can help you decide which option is best.
  • Passive:
    Take two short-term tests at the same time in the same location for at least 48 hours. OR Take an initial short-term test for at least 48 hours. Immediately upon completing the first test, do a second test using an identical device in the same location as the first test.

    Fix the home if the average of two tests is 4 pCi/L or more.
  • Active:
    Test the home with a continuous monitor for at least 48 hours.

    Fix the home if the average radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.

f. Using Testing Devices Properly for Reliable Results

If You Do the Test Yourself

When you are taking a short-term test, close windows and doors and keep them closed, except for normal entry and exit. If you are taking a short-term test lasting less than four days, be sure to:

  • Close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours before beginning the test;
  • Do not conduct short-term tests lasting less than four days during severe storms or periods of high winds;
  • Follow the testing instructions and record the start time and date;
  • Place the test device at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it will not be disturbed and where it will be away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and exterior walls;
  • Leave the test kit in place for as long as the test instructions say; and
  • Once you have finished the test, record the stop time and date, reseal the package and return it immediately to the lab specified on the package for analysis.


You should receive your test results within a few weeks. If you need results quickly, you should find out how long results will take and, if necessary, request expedited service.

If You Hire a Qualified Radon Tester

In many cases, home buyers and sellers may decide to have the radon test done by a qualified radon tester who knows the proper conditions, test devices, and guidelines for obtaining a reliable radon test result. They can also:

  • Evaluate the home and recommend a testing approach designed to make sure you get reliable results;
  • Explain how proper conditions can be maintained during the radon test;
  • Emphasize to occupants of a home that a reliable test result depends on their cooperation. Interference with, or disturbance of, the test or closed-house conditions will invalidate the test result;
  • Analyze the data and report measurement results; and
  • Provide an independent test.


Your state radon office may also have information about qualified radon testers certification requirements.

g. Interpreting Radon Test Results

The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L; roughly 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable for all homes, radon levels in many homes can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below.

  • Radon Test Results Reported in Two Ways
    Your radon test results may be reported in either picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) or working levels (WL). If your test result is in pCi/L, EPA recommends you fix your home if your radon level is 4 pCi/L or higher. If the test result is in WL, EPA recommends you fix the home if the working level is 0.02 WL or higher. Some states require WL results to be converted to pCi/L to minimize confusion.


Sometimes short-term tests are less definitive about whether the home is at or above 4 pCi/L; particularly when the results are close to 4 pCi/L. For example, if the average of two short-term tests is 4.1 pCi/L, there is about a 50% chance that the year-round average is somewhat below 4 pCi/L.

However, EPA believes that any radon exposure carries some risk; no level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk. You can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.

As with other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty about the magnitude of radon health risks. However, we know more about radon risks than risks from most other cancer-causing substances. This is because estimates of radon risks are based on data from human studies (underground miners). Additional studies on more typical populations are under way.

Your radon measurement will give you an idea of your risk of getting lung cancer from radon. Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:

  • Your home's radon level;
  • The amount of time you spend in your home; and
  • Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked.


Smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk. If you smoke or are a former smoker, the presence of radon greatly increases your risk of lung cancer. If you stop smoking now and lower the radon level in your house, you will reduce your lung cancer risk.

Based on information contained in the National Academy of Sciences 1998 report, The Health Effects of Exposure to Indoor Radon, your radon risk may be somewhat higher than shown; especially if you have never smoked. It's never too late to reduce your risk to lung cancer. Don't wait to test and fix a radon problem. If you are a smoker, stop smoking.

Radon Testing Checklist

For reliable test results, follow this Radon Testing Checklist carefully. Testing for radon is not complicated. Improper testing may yield inaccurate results and require another test. Disturbing or interfering with the test device, or with closed-house conditions, may invalidate the test results and is illegal in some states. If the seller or qualified tester cannot confirm that all items have been completed, take another test.

Before Conducting a Radon Test:

  • Notify the occupants of the importance of proper testing conditions. Give the occupants written instructions or a copy of this Guide and explain the directions carefully.
  • Conduct the radon test for a minimum of 48 hours; some test devices have a minimum exposure time greater than 48 hours.
  • When doing a short-term test ranging from 2-4 days, it is important to maintain closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the beginning of the test and during the entire test period.
  • When doing a short-term test ranging from 4-7 days, EPA recommends that closed-house conditions be maintained.
  • If you conduct the test yourself, use a qualified radon measurement device and follow the laboratory's instructions. Your state may be able to provide you with a list of do-it-yourself test devices available from qualified laboratories.
  • If you hire someone to do the test, hire only a qualified individual. Some states issue photo identification (ID) cards; ask to see it. The tester's ID number, if available, should be included or noted in the test report.
  • The test should include method(s) to prevent or detect interference with testing conditions or with the testing device itself.
  • If the house has an active radon-reduction system, make sure the vent fan is operating properly. If the fan is not operating properly, have it (or ask to have it) repaired and then test.


Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside. Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

During a Radon Test:

  • Maintain closed-house conditions during he entire time of a short term test, especially for tests shorter than one week in length.
  • Operate the home's heating and cooling systems normally during the test. For tests lasting less than one week, operate only air-conditioning units which recirculate interior air.
  • Do not disturb the test device at any time during the test.
  • If a radon-reduction system is in place, make sure the system is working properly and will be in operation during the entire radon test.


After a Radon Test:

  • If you conduct the test yourself, be sure to promptly return the test device to the laboratory. Be sure to complete the required information, including start and stop times, test location, etc.
  • If an elevated level is found, fix the home. Contact a qualified radon-reduction contractor about lowering the radon level. EPA recommends that you fix the home when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
  • Be sure that you or the radon tester can demonstrate or provide information to ensure that the testing conditions were not violated during the testing period.

6. What Should I Do If the Radon Level is High?

a. High Radon Levels Can be Reduced

EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher. It is better to correct a radon problem before placing your home on the market because then you have more time to address a radon problem.

If elevated levels are found during the real estate transaction, the buyer and seller should discuss the timing and costs of the radon reduction. The cost of making repairs to reduce radon levels depends on how your home was built and other factors. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs, like painting or having a new hot water heater installed. The average cost for a contractor to lower radon levels in a home can range from $800 to about $2,500.

b. How To Lower The Radon Level In Your Home

A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon in homes. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to limit radon entry. Sealing alone has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently.

In most cases, a system with a vent pipe(s) and fan(s) is used to reduce radon. These "sub-slab depressurization" systems do not require major changes to your home. Similar systems can also be installed in homes with crawl space. These systems prevent radon gas from entering the home from below the concrete floor and from outside the foundation. Radon mitigation contractors may use other methods that may also work in your home. The right system depends on the design of your home and other factors.

Techniques for reducing radon are discussed in EPA's "Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction." As with any other household appliance, there are costs associated with the operation of the radon-reduction system.

  • Radon and home renovations
    If you are planning any major renovations, such as converting an unfinished basement area into living space, it is especially important to test the area for radon before you begin.
    If your test results indicate an elevated radon level, radon-resistant techniques can be inexpensively included as part of the renovation. Major renovations can change the level of radon in any home. Test again after the work is completed.


You should also test your home again after it is fixed to be sure that radon levels have been reduced. If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should retest your home on that level. In addition, it is a good idea to retest your home sometime in the future to be sure radon levels remain low.

c. Selecting a Radon-Reduction (Mitigation) Contractor

Select a qualified radon-reduction contractor to reduce the radon levels in your home. Any mitigation measures taken or system installed in your home must conform to your state's regulations. In states without regulations covering mitigation, the system should conform to EPA's Radon Mitigation Standards.

EPA recommends that the mitigation contractor review the radon measurement results before beginning and radon-reduction work. Test again after the radon mitigation work has been completed to confirm that previous elevated levels have been reduced. EPA recommends that the test be conducted by an independent qualified radon tester.

d. What Can a Qualified Radon-Reduction Contractor Do for You?

A qualified radon-reduction (mitigation) contractor should be able to:

  • Review testing guidelines and measurement results, and determine if additional measurements are needed;
  • Evaluate the radon problem and provide you with a detailed, written proposal on how radon levels will be lowered;
  • Design a radon-reduction system;
  • Install the system according to EPA standards, or state or local codes; and
  • Make sure the finished system effectively reduces radon levels to acceptable levels.


Choose a radon mitigation contractor to fix your radon problem just as you would for any other home repair. You may want to get more than one estimate, ask for and check their references. Make sure the person you hire is qualified to install a mitigation system. Some states regulate or certify radon mitigation services providers.

Be aware that a potential conflict of interest exists if the same person or firm performs the testing and installs the mitigation system. Some states may require the homeowner to sign a waiver in such cases. If the same person or firm does the testing and mitigation, make sure the testing is done in accordance with the Radon Testing Checklist. Contact your state radon office for more information.

e. Radon in Water

The radon in your home's indoor air can come from two sources, the soil or your water supply. Compared to radon entering your home through water, radon entering your home through soil is a much larger risk. If you've tested for radon in air and have elevated radon levels and your water comes from a private well, have your water tested. The devices and procedures for testing your home's water supply are different from those used for measuring radon in air.

The radon in your water supply poses an inhalation risk and an ingestion risk. Research has shown that your risk of lung cancer from breathing radon in air is much larger than your risk of stomach cancer from swallowing water with radon in it. Most of your risk from radon in water comes from radon released into the air when water is used for showering and other household purposes.

Radon in your home's water in not usually a problem when its source is surface water. A radon in water problem is more likely when its source is ground water, e.g., a private well or a public water supply system that uses ground water. Some public water systems treat their water to reduce radon levels before it is delivered to your home. If you are concerned that radon may be entering your home through the water and your water comes from a public water supply, contact your water supplier.

If you've tested your private well and have a radon in water problem, it can be fixed. Your home's water supply can be treated in one of two ways. Point-of-entry treatment can effectively remove radon from the water before it enters your home. Point-of-entry treatment usually employs either granular activated carbon (GAC) filters or aeration devices. While GAC filters usually cost less than aeration devices, filters can collect radioactivity and may require a special method of disposal. Point-of-use treatment devices remove radon from your water at the tap, but only treat a small portion of the water you use, e.g., the water you drink. Point-of-use devices are not effective in reducing the risk from breathing radon released into the air from all water used in the home.

For information on radon in water, testing and treatment, and existing or planned radon in drinking water standards, or for general help, call EPA's Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 or visit www.epa.gov/safewater/radon.html. If your water comes from a private well, you can also contact your state radon office.

b. Radon Hotlines (Toll-Free)

EPA supports the following hotlines to best serve consumers with radon-related questions and concerns.

1-800-SOS-RADON (767-7236).
Radon Hotline, operated by the National Safety Council (NSC) in partnership with EPA. Order radon test kits by phone.

1-800-55RADON (557-2366).
For live help with your radon questions. Operated by the National Safety Council (NSC) in partnership with EPA.

1-800-644-6999.
Radon Fix-it Hotline, operated by the Consumer Federation of America Foundation (CFAF) in partnership with EPA. For help with your radon mitigation questions.

1-800-725-8312.
A Spanish (EspaƱol) language radon hotline, operated by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health (the Alliance) in partnership with EPA. For general help with radon, testing, and mitigation questions, and free test kits.

1-800-438-4318.
The Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Information Clearinghouse is privately operated under contract to EPA. You can order copies of EPA consumer-oriented radon publications and get general information on radon and indoor air quality issues.

1-800-426-4791.
Safe Drinking Water Hotline, privately operated under contract to EPA. For general information on drinking water, radon in water, testing and treatment, and radon drinking water standards.

SURGEON GENERAL HEALTH ADVISORY
"Indoor radon gas is a national health problem. Radon causes thousands of deaths each year. Millions of homes have elevated radon levels. Homes should be tested for radon. When elevated levels are confirmed, the problem should be corrected."