Radon Myths and Truths

Myth: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.

FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control, the American Lung Association, and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.

Myth : The home was vacant for 6 months prior to testing – it must have affected the results.

FACT: This has no impact on test results. Radon levels build back up within a home only 12 hours after a home is closed up. Whether the home has been closed up for 12 hours or 12 months will not affect the radon levels. All short term tests are conducted under closed house conditions so that the potential for high radon levels can be tested.

Myth : Radon only affects certain types of homes.

FACT: Radon can be a problem in all types of homes such as old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements and homes without basements. Construction materials and the way the home has been built may also affect radon levels.

Myth : Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.

FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state, including  Maine. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know the home’s radon level is to test.

Myth: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a radon problem.

FACT: It is not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.

Myth: I have lived in my home for so long, it does not make sense to take action now.

FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you have lived with a radon problem for a long time.

Myth:  Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.

FACT: Reliable radon tests are available from qualified radon testers and companies. Active radon devices can continuously gather and periodically record radon levels to reveal any unusual swings in the radon level during the test. Reliable testing devices are also available by phone or mail-order, and can be purchased in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Call your state radon office for a list of qualified radon test companies.

Myth: Long-term test kits are more accurate than short-term test kits.

FACT: They are both as accurate and each will show you what the average radon concentration was during the time period tested. However, radon levels do vary dependent upon weather conditions and other factors. Long term testing will show the average results over a longer period of time and will average all of those changing conditions together for your final result. Radon levels within the home are usually lower in the spring and fall, while being higher in the winter and summer. Partially because our houses are more closed up, but mainly because the pressures within our houses that draw in the radon are greater whenever the temperature differences are more extreme. Although radon levels can vary widely throughout the year, short term tests are still recommended as the first step just in case your radon levels are extremely high. If you’d like to run a follow up test and average the two over different seasons, or take a longer test for a longer average, that’s up to you, but results from short term testing has been shown to have the same bearing on mitigation decisions 94% of the time.

Myth:   Radon testing is difficult and time-consuming.

FACT: Radon testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon test company. Either approach takes only a small amount of time and effort.

Myth:   Homes with radon problems cannot be fixed.

FACT: There are solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of home owners have already lowered their radon levels. Radon levels can be readily lowered for between $800 and $2,500. Call your state radon office for a list of qualified mitigation contractors.

Myth: Everyone should test their water for radon.

FACT: While radon gets into some homes through the water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If your water comes from a public water system that uses ground water, call your water supplier. If high radon levels are found and the home has a private well, call TP Environmental 207-991-0171 to test your water.  Also, call your state radon office for more information about radon in air.

Myth: It is difficult to sell a home where radon problems have been discovered.

FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked. The added protection will be a good selling point.

Myth: Short-term tests cannot be used for making a decision about whether to reduce the home’s high radon levels.

FACT: Short-term tests can be used to decide whether to reduce the home’s high radon levels. However, the closer the short-term testing result is to 4 pCi/L, the less certainty there is about whether the home’s year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk and that radon levels can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below in most homes.

Myth: Radon is only a problem in granite areas.

FACT:High radon levels are found on many different rock types around the country, including some limestones and sandstones.

Myth: I’m safe because I don’t spend much time in my basement.

FACT: If your furnace or duct runs are located in your basement or crawlspace, anytime the furnace fan runs for either heat or air conditioning, the radon level on the first floor is often the same as it is in the basement or crawlspace. Staying out of the basement doesn’t matter if your furnace fan is running even occasionally.

Myth: I already have a radon monitor in my home and it says I’m safe.

FACT:  Some people mistakenly think that carbon monoxide monitors or smoke detectors measure radon. Every home should have both but they can’t detect radon.

 Myth:  My home is new so I can’t have a radon problem.

FACT: Many newer homes have higher radon levels than older ones because they now design homes to have better porosity in the soil around the house. This is done for moisture control but the result is easier flow for the radon gas to be drawn in. It doesn’t matter how old your home is, if there is the right amount of radium in the soil, you may have a serious problem.