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JLeslie's avatar

What's your opinion on "safe" radon levels in the home?

Asked by JLeslie (63526points) January 13th, 2016 from iPhone

I’m now living in a part of country that has a lot of radon gas. My new basement just tested at 3.5. EPA says below 4 is acceptable. I’m not liking that number. I’m pretty sure I want to put a radon removal system in the house. They say it works. I don’t know how much it reduces the number?

Would you feel ok at the 3.5?

I’ve read up a little, but any information you want to share please do.

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19 Answers

jca's avatar

A good friend of mine told me that natural stone countertops have radon in them. In googling it, I learned that the stone does have radon but the levels are low.

What is in the basement? Is it just radon from the ground or is it from something that was put in the house that can be removed?

How effective are radon removal systems?

JLeslie's avatar

It’s from the ground. The ground in some parts of the country has a lot of radon from uranium decay I think.

I know about the stone countertops. I’ve always thought I should buy a Geiger counter.

Edit: You can look up your county here if you want. Radon mitigation systems are very common here.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Please don’t panic. Those levels are a little higher than the average level in the US, 1.3 pCi/l, but not outrageous. Here is a nice chart that shows the risk. Minuscule. Smoking is hundreds of times worse. If you air out your basement every now and then you will be fine.
I have a small, solid state Geiger counter that I will lend to you so you can take readings live. It will help you put things in perspective.
On a recent commercial flight I was shocked to find that at 30,000 ft I was being exposed to radiation levels 20 times the values at my home. I do not worry about flying. Nor should you.

If you want to borrow it, PM me with an address and I’ll lend it to you. It is very sensitive! You will discover that almost everything is radioactive. A banana will expose you to 0.01 uSv/hr from the potassium. Being next to a human will expose you to 0.05 uSv/hr (5 bananas). Walking in a crowd will bump that number up. You might find that the exposure is equivalent to sleeping with hubby. I will leave it to you to decide if that is dangerous or not and worth the risk. :-)

JLeslie's avatar

I’m not panicked. I’ve been told pilots are exposed to a lot of radiation.

I’d love to borrow the Geiger and see all the poison in my house. It would be interesting.

Cruiser's avatar

3.5 is considered safe and will pass most home inspections. Readings can and will vary depending on time of the year primarily do to ingress and egress habits of the people living there. This time of the year the doors and windows are closed up tight and may be contributing to a higher reading. You may want to take a few more readings before making a decision. Did you use the capsules to test or the digital readers?

My home had a 12+ when I put an offer in and a radon system got it down to a 1.2 plus these systems bring the bonus of pumping off all that humidity a basement would otherwise have especially come summer.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser Extremely helpful. Thank you. That makes me want to just go ahead and get a system. No one has mentioned the anti-humidity aspect. I hope it’s the same type of system they offer here? Do you have a manufacturer name?

JLeslie's avatar

And, for a touch of irony, I’m excited the house has a humidifier for the ground level up.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie Just call licensed Radon companies. I do not think the systems vary much. Basically they put a pipe into your basement floor and a fan motor on the outside of your house and vent the pipe up over your roof line. The suction on a well sealed floor will be quite a bit to where if you drill a hole through the floor on the far end of the basement it will suck out a lighter flame. So what this does is pull a negative vacuum under the floor that sucks out all the air and moisture from under the floor and the 2 homes I have had with radon systems have never had that vapor lock layer of humid air you encounter when going down in the basement.

DO get references as there is more to a good radon system than just the piping and fan. All floor/wall joints need to be sealed as well as the sump pump if there is one.

LuckyGuy's avatar

It is small enough to be carried in a shirt pocket. I turn off the audio and set it to vibrate when the level reaches a set threshold. It is fun to walk in antique sops and have it start vibrating when I pass old Fiestaware.
Note that you are relying upon companies that install Radon remediation systems to tell you if you need a system. Have you heard the expression, “A barber always thinks you need a haircut.” ? I prefer to have independent data and make the decision for myself. You will be able to walk around the house and let it sample nooks an crannies including your sump pump. Because it is so sensitive and the detector is so small it is a little slow. It will take 40 seconds for a full reading. Not bad.
Feel free to borrow it. Really.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie Do your own research here

JLeslie's avatar

@LuckyGuy The inspector came up with that reading. He is not recommending a company nor recommending a system at all. He just reported the number after a two day test.

I didn’t realize the Geiger is so small. How much are they? I might buy one.

LuckyGuy's avatar

This one is a little special. It is designed to be hidden. We will talk offline.

JLeslie's avatar

I can just see my husband dealing with me constantly knowing how much radiation I am exposed to. Lol.

Have you ever worn it in one of those machines at the airport that sees you in your underwear? I’d love to know what those register. I’ve read reports that some of them have much higher radiation than they should.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’ve carried it through in my carry-on but it was always turned off. I did not want to have to explain it. (Also it is designed to measure long term exposure, not sort bursts.)
I did test a friend who went in for a bone scan. The amount was shocking.

Playing with this for 2 weeks will either cure your worries ( “Oh radiation is everywhere.”) or make them worse ( OH! RADIATION IS EVERYWHERE!)

Maybe you’d better not. You might convince yourself you need to sleep in separate beds. :-)

By the way I am eating a banana this morning even though it contains radioactive potassium. I’m living life on the edge!

JLeslie's avatar

I was so upset about the CT scans they did on me in the ER after my accident that I asked for a radiation estimate. It was some going like 17 years background radiation plus or minus 50%! I’m not sure what bothers me more, the amount dosed to me in less than a minute, or that they can only predict within plus or minus 50%?! Two of the scans I would have agreed to, but I had no idea they were scanning me head to pelvis until afterwards. I’m still disgusted about it, and disgusted so many doctors think nothing of radiating people.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the “radiation is everywhere” would actually make me feel much better.

LuckyGuy's avatar

When I get to the office I will photograph and send you a chart I have that shows the scale of radiation dosages and typical values for work spaces, living areas, locations around the world medical procedures etc.
Sure you got a big dose but for a short time. That increased your chances of X disease by Y %. How much is that really? It is much lower than not getting the condition fixed – or by not eating right or by not exercising.

Ambient radiation where I live is 0.10 uSv/hr. Where you live it might be 0.35. Some places it is above 1.0 uSv/hr. On the plane over Wyoming it was 2.22. They know the dosage precisely. It is the background they compare it to that varies. When you have the ability to read extremely low numbers everything looks scary.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Measuring in picocuries is very old school. That is really not the important thing. You want to know the dose you are exposed to and its potential effects. Alpha, Beta and gamma radiation have different effects. The Sievert corrects for that and reports the biological effect of the ionizing radiation – much more relevant.
We are living in the 21st century and should be using 21st century units.

It is like looking at old deeds where they measured property dimensions using units like links and chains. It is time to step up to the metric system with GPS coordinates.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Info send.

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