Skip to content.
HomeE-ServicesCity GovernmentLiving & WorkingDoing Business
You Are Here: Home > E-Services > FAQs

Radon Awareness

Related Pages: Inspectional Services » Housing/Health Inspections

For more information related to Radon Awareness, contact the Inspectional Services Department's Housing/Health Inspections at (508) 799-1198.

Q:
How does Radon get into my home?
 A:

Radon enters homes most commonly through:

  • cracks in foundations;
  • openings around sump pumps and drains;
  • construction joints; and
  • cracks in walls.

Radon is most concentrated in the lowest level of the home.

Q:
Is Radon really a problem?
 A:

Nearly 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated Radon levels. Elevated levels have been found in every state. While Radon problems may be more common in some areas, any home may have a problem. In addition, the level of Radon in a nearby home or building cannot be used to predict the level of Radon in your home or building. Two adjacent houses may have very different Radon levels. EPA recommends that all homes below the third floor be tested for Radon and that all schools be tested.

The Surgeon General, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the American Lung Association have all identified indoor Radon as a national health problem.

Q:
What health effects are associated with exposure to Radon?
 A:

An increased risk of lung cancer is the only known health effect associated with exposures to elevated Radon levels. Radon does not cause any short-term health effects, such as shortness of breath, coughing, headaches or fever.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Radon causes an estimated 7,000 to 30,000 lung cancer deaths per year.

Radon can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of Radon will develop lung cancer.

Your chances of getting lung cancer from Radon depend mostly on:

  • how much Radon is in your home;
  • the amount of time you spend in your home; and
  • whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked.

Smokers have a higher risk of developing Radon-induced lung cancer.

As with all pollutants, there is some uncertainty in estimating health risks associated with Radon. Because Radon risk estimates are based primarily on scientific studies of humans (mostly miners exposed to different levels of Radon in their underground work), scientists are considerably more certain of Radon risk estimates than they are of estimates based solely on animal studies.

Q:
I understand that Radon is a concern in some areas but not in others. Does my area have a Radon problem?
 A:

According to EPA Worcester County has one of the highest Radon potential in the United States, with the average Radon gas level greater than 4pCi/L. Elevated indoor Radon levels have been found in all areas of the country. Houses next door to each other can have very different levels. Some homes in low Radon potential areas have been found to have high levels of Radon. Conversely, some homes in high Radon potential areas have been found to have low Radon levels. The only way to know if your house has an elevated Radon level is to test. EPA recommends that all residences below the third floor be tested for Radon.

Q:
Is Radon a problem in drinking water supplies?
 A:

Generally, Radon is not a concern with public drinking water systems, where the Radon likely is released to outdoor air before reaching the home faucets.

Q:
How do I test my house?
 A:

Testing for Radon is simple and inexpensive.

There are many "do-it-yourself" kits you can buy at retail outlets or through the mail. You should only purchase approved certified Radon tests kits. These kits and their providers have met qualifications for Radon measurement. Worcester Inspectional Services will hand out free kits to the first 100 Worcester Residents who contact this Department.

For 12 hours prior to taking the test, and as much as possible during the test, keep all doors and windows closed. You do not have to vacate your home while testing. EPA recommends placing the Radon kit in the lowest lived-in level of the home (for instance the basement if it could be frequently used, otherwise the first floor). You should test a room that is used regularly, but not the kitchen or bathroom. For placement, follow the instructions that come with the test kit.

Once the test is complete, reseal the kit and send it to the lab specified on the package.

The quickest way to test is with a short-term test. These devices (charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation) remain in the home for about 7 days. It is best to test during the heating season.

You may also hire a company to test your home for you. Your state Radon contact at 1-800-Radon-95 can help you find a certified Radon measurement contractor.

Q:
Where can I buy a test kit?
 A:

Test kits are generally available from hardware stores, supermarkets, and other retail outlets, and also through the mail for prices ranging from $10 to $45.

The Air Quality Program offers low-cost short term Radon test kits to anyone who wants to test their home.

Q:
My neighbor has tested and found an elevated Radon level (or found a very low Radon level). Does this mean that I should (or shouldn't) be concerned?
 A:

No. Having a neighbor that has tested high (or low) for Radon is no guarantee that your house will test similarly. The only way to know if a house has a high level of Radon is to test.

Q:
What do these results mean?
 A:

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). The average indoor level is 1.3pCi/L and about 0.4 pCi/L is normally found in the outside air. EPA recommends that action be taken to reduce the indoor Radon levels that are above 4 pCi/L. Most homes today can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below. There is really no "safe" level. Any level of Radon exposure carries some risk.

Q:
Are Radon testing kits accurate?
 A:

Responsible test kits, when used as directed, provide reliable indications of Radon concentrations over the time the kits are used.

Q:
When should short-term tests be conducted? Does time of year matter?
 A:

Winter readings are typically higher than those taken in summer. During winter, the larger differential between outdoor and indoor pressure is likely to lead to higher entry of Radon into a house than would occur in summer. We recommend testing in the winter.

Q:
I tested my home and found a Radon level of just under 4 pCi/l. Is that safe?
 A:

Four picocuries per liter of air has been identified by EPA as the recommended action level. There is no absolutely safe level; there is some level of risk associated with all levels of Radon.

EPA's Citizens Guide to Radon contains some comparisons of risk estimates. The brochure is available from your state Radon office at 1-800-Radon-95 and can be viewed by visiting the EPA's Radon Publications Web Page or Worcester Inspectional Services Department (508) 799-1198.

Q:
I tested my home and found a Radon level higher than 4 pCi/l. What should I do?
 A:

Contact your state Radon office at 1-800-Radon-95 for information about Radon.

Q:
What is involved in reducing the Radon level in my home? What will it cost?
 A:

Several different methods are used to reduce Radon levels in homes. The most common is, called subslab depressurization which reverses the flow of Radon entry by pressurizing the home (called subslab depressurization).

In most cases, elevated Radon levels can be reduced to less than 2 pCi/l.

Radon reduction is comparable to other home maintenance efforts. If there is a Radon problem in a particular residence, it is fixable and usually for less than $2,000. For more information, and a free copy of EPA's Consumers Guide to Radon Reduction, contact your state Radon office at 1-800-Radon-95. The brochure can also be viewed at EPA's Radon Publications Web Page.

Q:
Should I refuse to buy a house with a Radon problem?
 A:

Homes with high levels of Radon can be fixed. Talk with the seller of the home about having the home mitigated.

Contact your state Radon office at 1-800-Radon-95 for a free copy of EPA's Home Buyers and Sellers Guide to Radon. The brochure can also be viewed at EPA's Radon Publications Web Page.

Q:
What about Radon in new homes?
 A:

If you are building a new home, you can have your builder incorporate Radon-resistant construction techniques into your home. Contact your state Radon office for advice about incorporating Radon control features into your new home.

Q:
Is Radon a problem in schools?
 A:

Schools are at risk from Radon just as homes are. EPA recommends that schools nationwide be tested. The City of Worcester has tested all of its schools and are within acceptable limits for Radon.

For more information, contact the Worcester Inspectional Services Department at (508) 799-1198.

E-Services
© 2017 | Copyright City of Worcester, MA | All Rights Reserved. | Login | Disclaimer | Site Map