Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Radon in Portland
What is Radon
Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas released from the radioactive decay of uranium in the soils under homes. About 15,000 years ago large floods swept across Idaho digging up uranium and depositing it in the Portland area. This material slowly decays releasing radon gas which slowly makes its way into homes. To see an interactive radon map of Portland click here.
Cancer from Radon
From the EPA:
Lung cancer kills thousands of Americans every year. Smoking, radon, and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer. Although lung cancer can be treated, the survival rate is one of the lowest for those with cancer. From the time of diagnosis, between 11 and 15 percent of those afflicted will live beyond five years, depending upon demographic factors. In many cases lung cancer can be prevented.
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. On January 13, 2005, Dr. Richard H. Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General, issued a national health advisory on radon.
Two studies show definitive evidence of an association between residential radon exposure and lung cancer. Two studies, a North American study and a European study, both combined data from several previous residential studies. These two studies go a step beyond earlier findings. They confirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies of underground miners who breathed radon for a period of years. Early in the debate about radon-related risks, some researchers questioned whether occupational studies could be used to calculate risks from exposure to radon in the home environment. “These findings effectively end any doubts about the risks to Americans of having radon in their homes,” said Tom Kelly, Former Director of EPA’s Indoor Environments Division. “We know that radon is a carcinogen. This research confirms that breathing low levels of radon can lead to lung cancer.”
Continuous radon testing uses an electronic radon machine to measure radon concentrations every hour for 2-4 days. This type of testing can detect inaccurate radon results by showing spikes caused by open windows and significant changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the most accurate short term test available and why we recommend it for real estate transactions.
Short Term Radon Testing vials
Short term tests are typically 2-4 days long and give a snapshot of radon concentrations. Radon vials can be accurate but they do not detect spikes that can significantly alter the average test result.
Long Term Radon Vials
Long term tests are done over a 3-12 month period and give a better average because they are less affected by short term spikes in radon. Long term tests also reflect radon levels based on how you live. Someone who lives with open windows and doors a portion of the year (outdoor air has low radon levels) will have lower average radon concentrations than someone who lives in a closed home all year. Long term tests are always recommended after move in.
What do the radon test results mean
The US EPA and Surgeon General have established the following guidelines.
Average radon concentration of 4.0 pCi/l or more - Install radon mitigation system.
Average radon concentration between 2.0 and 4.0 pCi/l - Consider radon mitigation.
Average radon concentration less than 2.0 pCi/l - No mitigation necessary. We recommend retesting the home every two years or when significant structural changes are made to the home.
Active radon mitigation systems can reduce radon levels in the home below 4 pCi/l. Many homes can be reduced below 2.0 pCi/l.
Does radon Mitigation work
Yes. Radon mitigation contractors are required to retest the home after the system is installed and the levels are required to be below 4pCi/L. In our experience most radon mitigation system reduce radon levels below 0.5 pCi/L. When you have a radon mitigation system installed we recommend asking for the radon results.
Interactive Radon zip code map with averages
Zoom in on the map and click on the area of interest
In the box that pops up at the right of the screen, scroll down to the bottom
Maximum Result in zip: highest radon level found in that zip code
Average Result in Zip: average of all radon tests completed in that zip code
Count of Locations GTE4: Number of building with radon levels above 4 pCi/L (EPA recommends a radon mitigation systems be installed)
Count of Locations: total number of tests completed in that zip code
Percent of Locations GTE4: percent of buildings tested that have radon levels above 4 pCi/L (EPA recommends a radon mitigation systems be installed)