Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can seep into homes and buildings from the surrounding soil. Long-term exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. The only way to know if your home has dangerous radon levels is to test for it. If radon is found at unsafe levels, remediation (radon mitigation) can be done to reduce the radon.
Choosing the right radon testing and mitigation company is important to get accurate results and ensure any necessary radon reduction work is done properly. Here is a guide on what to look for when selecting Radon testing in Portland Maine.
Overview of Radon and Radon Testing
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is formed from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. As it decays, radon produces new radioactive elements called radon daughters or decay products. Radon gas can enter homes and buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation.
Radon decays quickly, with a half-life of only 3.8 days. By the time it has seeped into your home and circulated inside, radon has usually already begun decaying and releasing radiation. The radon daughters have very short half-lives ranging from seconds to minutes, but they can get lodged in your lungs when you breathe. As they further decay in the lungs, the radon daughters release small bursts of radiation that can damage lung tissue.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General have warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking. An estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year are linked to radon exposure. Radon exposure is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
The EPA and the World Health Organization recommend radon levels inside homes should be reduced to below 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). At this level, the cancer risk is quite low. However, the national average indoor radon level is about 1.3 pCi/L. The higher the radon concentration, the greater the health risk. Any home may have elevated radon levels – old or new, well-sealed or drafty, with or without basements. The only way to know if a home has high radon is to test for it.
Radon test kits are commercially available at home improvement stores and online. But radon testing is best done by trained professionals with quality test equipment. Professional radon tests devices are left in place for a minimum of 48 hours. Then the device is sent to a lab for analysis. Testing is usually done in the lowest lived-in area of the home that is in contact with the soil, such as the basement. All types of homes should be tested, including homes with crawl spaces.
Types of Radon Tests
There are several different methods that can be used for testing radon in your home:
Passive radon tests – These tests use charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, or electret ion chamber detectors. The testing device is left in place for 2 to 7 days, then sent to a lab for analysis. Passive testing is quicker and cheaper than active testing. However, passive tests can be affected by improper placement or interference. Professional radon services use quality passive test kits and ensure proper protocols.
Active radon tests
These tests use a pump and filter to constantly draw air and collect radon over a 48-hour period. The radon collecting device is more expensive but allows for a continuous measurement unaffected by brief changes in home conditions. Active tests conducted by radon professionals give very accurate results.
DIY radon tests
Test kits purchased from hardware stores or online can be used by homeowners to measure radon themselves. However, poor placement or interference can easily lead to inaccurate results. Professional radon testers are trained to properly place detectors and ensure testing conditions are ideal. The added cost of professional testing is small for such an important health test.
Hiring Professional Radon Testers
When hiring a company or individual to test radon in your Portland Maine home, here are key factors to consider:
Make sure the radon tester holds a current national certification as a radon professional. There are two respected, independent organizations that certify radon professionals:
- National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP): Administered by the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST). The NRPP offers individual certifications for radon measurement, radon mitigation, and radon laboratory analysis.
- National Radon Safety Board (NRSB): Offers certification as a certified radon professional (CRP) for radon measurement and mitigation. NRSB also certifies radon laboratories.
Look for professionals certified by NRPP, NRSB or both organizations. This ensures radon testers have met education, experience and ethics requirements. They are qualified to accurately test and mitigate radon.
Choose a radon testing company that uses an independent, certified laboratory to analyze passive radon test devices. Test kits should have tamper-proof seals and chain-of-custody documentation. This ensures testing integrity from start to finish.
The testing company should follow quality assurance plans and be enrolled in proficiency programs to routinely check calibration of test devices. Ask to see a current calibration report for active radon testing equipment. Precision and accuracy in measurements is vital.
Find a radon measurement technician with experience conducting multiple professional radon tests in homes. Experienced testers will properly identify test locations, avoid interference, and ensure optimum test conditions. Technicians should also be trained how to communicate test results and radon health risks. Ask how long the company has been in business and how many home radon tests they perform annually.
Some radon testers and mitigators only work in certain counties or parts of a state. Look for a company that provides radon testing and mitigation services throughout the Portland metropolitan area and surrounding communities. They will be familiar with the typical radon levels found locally in soil types and home styles.
The Radon Testing Process
When you contact a professional radon tester, they will discuss your home and needs, and recommend the best test method. Here is the typical process:
- Initial consultation – The radon pro will get information on your home’s age, foundation, furnace, ventilation and more. This helps determine the right detector placement and test method.
- Detector placement – For passive tests, the technician will place a test kit in the lowest lived-in level of the home. Active tests involve setting up a radon monitor with a pump to draw and filter air. The detector will be left undisturbed during testing.
- Follow up – The radon pro should explain how to maintain test conditions. This may include keeping windows closed, not running fans/HVAC, and leaving the detector alone for the test duration.
- Retrieving detectors – Active tests run for 48 hours or more. Passive tests require 2 to 7 days. The technician will return promptly to retrieve the detector for laboratory analysis.
- Test results – The lab issues test results within a few days usually. The radon pro then contacts you to explain your radon level and whether mitigation is recommended.
- Mitigation system – If levels are 4 pCi/L or above, the radon mitigation system installation process is discussed. Thankfully radon reduction systems are very effective if properly installed.
Ensuring Accurate Radon Test Results
To help ensure you get precise, reliable radon testing results:
Conduct testing in cool months
Radon levels fluctuate seasonally and are often highest when the ground is coldest. The EPA recommends testing during the cooler months from October to March for the most accurate readings.
Test all levels
Have the lowest inhabited level tested, and any other lower levels that are currently unfinished but could be converted to living space in the future. For a complete analysis, upper levels can also be checked.
Perform long-term testing
Long-term tests lasting 48 hours to 90 days give a better average radon level than short-term screening measurements. This is especially true in homes where radon fluctuates widely.
Retest after mitigation – If an elevated radon level is found and a radon mitigation system installed, make sure to retest the home afterwards. This verifies radon levels have been successfully reduced.
Next Steps if Radon is Found
The good news is elevated radon can be fixed. If your test results show radon at or above 4 pCi/L, a radon mitigation system also known as a radon reduction system should be installed. This is the only way to effectively lower radon in the home.
A radon reduction system uses plastic piping and a powerful fan to draw radon from beneath the home and vent it to the outdoors before it can enter living spaces. A qualified radon mitigation contractor can assess your home and design the right system. Installing a radon mitigation system costs on average between $1200 to $2500.
Radon mitigation contractors should also be properly certified by NRPP and/or NRSB. Look for an experienced, professional company to perform this important work. Make sure to get a written warranty covering the entire radon reduction system. Once installed, retest the home to confirm radon levels have dropped to safe levels below 4 pCi/L.
Finding Reputable Radon Services in Portland Maine
Choosing a certified, professional radon measurement and mitigation company is key to properly testing and fixing any radon problems in your Maine home. Here are some steps to find reliable radon services in the Portland area:
- Get referrals – Ask neighbors, friends and co-workers if they had radon testing done, and whether they recommend the company.
- Check credentials – Contact professional certification organizations to verify certification status of radon pros. Visit the website or call NRPP and NRSB to check on a company or individual’s certifications.
- Look for experience – Choose an established company that has tested many homes in Portland and the surrounding region. They will understand the typical radon levels found locally.
- Compare services – When requesting quotes, make sure the radon measurement scope of services, pricing, timeframes and warranty details are clearly outlined.
- Read reviews – Look online for customer reviews on sites like Google or the Better Business Bureau to gauge quality of service. Be wary of testimonial only websites.
Thorough, professional radon testing is the only way to find out if your home has elevated radon. Partnering with a reliable, experienced radon measurement company gives you peace of mind in the accuracy of the radon test results for your family’s safety. If high radon is discovered, you can work quickly to add a mitigation system and reduce the health risk.
Radon Testing Key Takeaways
- All homes should be tested for radon – it is impossible to predict radon levels based on neighborhood or home style. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year.
- Have an experienced, certified radon professional perform testing for the most accurate results. Passive test kits you use yourself are more prone to error.
- Active radon tests conducted over 48+ hours give the best average radon level. Also test in cooler months October-March when radon is usually highest.
- If your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or greater, install a radon reduction system. Radon mitigation using pipes and fans vents radon outside before it can enter the home.
- Make sure to retest after installing a radon mitigation system to confirm radon levels have dropped to safe levels below 4 pCi/L.
- Contact qualified radon testing labs and mitigation contractors certified by the NRPP and NRSB. This ensures radon services are conducted by trained professionals.
Protecting your family’s health is the priority. Take control by testing radon levels in your Portland Maine home using a reputable, certified radon measurement company. If high radon is found, a properly functioning radon mitigation system can effectively reduce radon exposure risk. With professional radon testing and mitigation, you can breathe easier knowing your home has safe radon levels.