Wednesday, November 22, 2017

radon testing

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that may accumulate in a home. Radon is colourless and odourless; it can enter a home anywhere there is contact with the ground, such as basements. Testing is the only way to know if it is present. 

I have begun two long term radon gas tests in the basement of my old house. Radon gas in a dwelling or at work is a possibility in most parts of Canada and the US. We should test for radon in the places we spend the most time ie have the most exposure.

There are excellent web references and tons to read. I have never done a test for Radon.

I was excited to have a "free" kit offered by local Grey Bruce Public Health. I also purchased a long term test kit (SKU 3616930 $43 with tax + $40 analysis report fee in six months) from Scott's Home Hardware to compare. My plan is to run both tests for six months (from today will be May 21 2018).

I have had most concern about where to place the test modules for the duration of the test. The kits and online info provide guidance. But if I followed it all, in my case, there would to be no place better than the middle of my living room on the main floor except it is adjacent to the kitchen which is a no-no. According to most instructions, I am to test in the lowest "lived-in" room in the house. A basement if it is finished and someone spends some amount of time down there.

I am probably erring on the side of excessive caution but I'd rather know if the room was safe BEFORE I put someone's living quarters down there. Unfinished and probably will never be except perhaps for some insulation. There is still a chance of a "water event" in my basement although things have been improved and it has been pretty dry down there the last couple of years. I wanted a worst case type of reading.

Other negatives, I am not to test in a furnace room although the furnace is across the room. I am to be away from walls and floors.  I built the little test stand to keep the modules safe and dry, about 2 foot off the concrete floor sitting under the open stair well.

Today I cut open the sealed bags. Both modules look the same, a black top hat module about 3cm in diameter with identical markings (but different numbers) just like they had been made in the same factory. Same air desiccant bag inside the plastic.

The one from the Public Health comes with paperwork from AccuStar Canada (with address POB Cap-Rouge Office Quebec. There is a plastic bag and a postage paid return envelop addressed from the Cap-Rouge Office to ACCUSTAR LAB 11 AWL STREET POB 158 MEDWAY, MA. I am supposed to mail the Public Health module together with the completed AccuStar Datasheet in this envelop. No additional charges mentioned. There is a statement in their instructions which states that test devices must be sent to the US address, not AccuStar Canada.

AccuStar calls the test "Long Term Radon Test Kit for Radon in Air (Alpha Track)". I had read that I could not measure for the presence of radon with a Geiger type counter since the radiation is alpha which is not detected by a Geiger tube. I need an alpha transparent window, like a mica window to make an active detector.

Passive radon detectors like these rely on a small piece of sensitized plastic film. It has to go back to a lab for reading. A one shot device. Time is a key input to determine an exposure range. These long term detectors should be exposed 90 days to one year and the exact period recorded on the datasheet.

The Public Health package includes a booklet "Radon: A Guide for Canadian Homeowners". Good basic information. I notice that you can get a pdf copy here if you submit your email.

The package from Home Hardware, a Pro-Lab "Long-Term Radon Gas Test Kit, product number RL116 contained an envelope made out to Pro-Lab with address in Woodbridge, Ontario, a short "information sheet" to be filled in and on the other side instructions. The standard Lab results are obtained by sending back the detector and test info sheet together with check or money order for C$40. They also take Visa, MaterCard, AMEX or Discovery cards. A phone number is given.

So now we wait for six months...

added june 27 2018: radon testing 2 - my results are in!

Thanks for your interest.
George Plhak
Lions Head, Ontario, Canada

Radon Cancer infographic
Radon -
US EPA on radon