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Radon Risk Versus CO Risk

Radon test kitOver lunch a few days ago I stopped by the hardware store and picked up a Pro-Lab do-it-yourself, short-term radon gas test kit. Cost was $12.99 with $30 paid later for analysis. The kit was hanging next to other DIY test kits. Asbestos, lead, long term radon, radon in water, bacteria in water, and carbon monoxide to name a few. Each less than $40 or so. I think the CO kit was about $15.

 

 

The Dangers

The radon kit states an EPA estimated 21,000 deaths per year from lung cancer, and that radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. The EPA shows the same numbers on their page A Citizen’s Guide to Radon. The CO test kit’s package stated that about 1,000 people die each year from CO poisoning. Both packages say if you want a professional inspection to go to inspectorseek.com and an IAC2/INTERNACHI home inspector can identify the potential sources.

Testing for Radon?

That got me wondering about how our home performance industry tests for, and mitigates, the risks of radon in the homes we visit. Carbon monoxide is well covered in the standards, though it’s obvious reading the comments on our Questioning Worst Case Combustion and Combustion Safety Testing and Risk Elimination article, that it’s still a controversial topic.

What do the standards say about radon? A quick search through our library of standards (yes we have a library of standards on our server, don’t you?) found the following:

  • BPI had one reference. The recently published Home Energy Audit Standard, item 3.7 says to inform customers about potential radon risk, unless a mitigation system is already in place.
  • RESNET has a mention in MINHERS, item 704.1.2.6.1.10, about a safety notification form for the customer, says identifying radon and other potential hazards are outside the scope of the Home Energy Survey.
  • ACCA Standard 12, Existing Home Evaluation and Performance Improvement, item 5.3.8 says to recommend radon testing and mitigation. 6.1.4 says to conduct radon tests when tightening the envelope. And Appendix B4 says the auditor should strongly consider initiating radon testing during an audit.

Homes should be tested for radon every couple of years, if not annually, however test frequency was not mentioned in any of these standards.

What Should We Do?

The relative silence of radon testing in the standards, compared to the noise of CO related testing, is deafening. Perhaps there are other standards in our industry that are more specific about requiring radon testing and specifying testing procedures, but the standards I mentioned are the ones I have ready access to. If you know of others let us know.

My point is this; radon is much more likely to kill than CO. That should justify a corresponding level of radon testing and customer education on the risks. Are radon deaths and illness less tragic or costly than deaths and illness from CO poisoning? How many deaths from radon-caused lung cancer could be prevented by simply providing our customers with a $43 radon test kit?

You can also check out RadonResources.com which has radon related resources and information that can be used to spread awareness within your community.

3 thoughts on “Radon Risk Versus CO Risk

  1. Dead clients use the least energy, and more people die in car accidents, and it has not killed that industry!

  2. Radon in Zone 1 will certainly become more of an issue in the residential retrofit industry. Radon testing and mitigation, if required, will certainly drive costs up and lower participation in energy programs. With the many potential health issues now assumed to be impacted by retrofits, I wonder about the future of the industry. For those of us interested in reducing the energy burden of clients, addressing all of potential health issues that may exist in a home has become a an industry killer.

  3. The test you referred to is not recognized by many state agency’s. Plan on paying 150-200 for a real test.

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