Whether you own your own home or rent a house or apartment here in coastal Maine (or anywhere), you should be aware of the air quality in your living space. Specifically, the presence of radon gas can be a health hazard. Like most hazards in the home, radon can be mitigated fairly easily.
We recommend a three step process for dealing with radon or most any potential hazard in your home. The three simple steps are: 1) Learn 2) Test; and 3) Act.
There is a lot of great literature available about radon online. Dozens of private sites offer information. The State of Maine’s website, maine.gov, has several pages devoted to radon and to Maine’s specific guidelines.
After a little basic research, you will see that radon is present almost everywhere and is not unsafe at low levels. Most any home can have radon in the air.
Additionally, if you get your drinking water from a well, there can be high levels of radon in the water. If there is a high level in radon in your water, anytime you run the washing machine or turn on a facet, the radon is released from the water and is emitted into the air. This is a process called “off gassing.” If you have municipal water, it is the responsibility or the city or town to be sure that the water entering your home does not have high levels of radon.
Testing your home is fairly simple but it does take time and there is a cost associated with testing. First, it is important to contact a qualified professional. Using a Maine Registered Radon Tester ensures that the person doing the testing is fully educated and competent to administer the test.
After you have selected a professional to administer the test, you will need to observe “closed house” conditions for several hours prior to testing and for the entire testing period which is generally a couple of days. “Closed house” conditions mean that all exterior doors and windows are closed except for normal entering and exiting of the living space. Because of the closed house requirement, you may try to avoid testing during the hottest periods of the year.
If you have a well, the same Registered Radon Tester can test your water. This test simply requires running the water for a few minutes and collecting a water sample which is sent to a lab for testing.
After the tests are done, you will receive written results within a few days. The written test results will give you a specific number of the amount radon in the air and in the water along with state and federal guidelines. It is important to thoroughly read the test results and put the exact number into the context of your family and your own health.
Fully understanding the test results is crucial. For example, the EPA says that a level below 4 pCi/L of radon in air is acceptable. However, the State of Maine says that a level between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L warrants further research and consideration.
Because the data can be confusing, use the Radon Tester who did the testing as a resource. Ask him or her specific questions. If you have a history of cancer or have very young children in the home, you may not be comfortable with a level that is higher than 2 pCi/L but less than 4 pCi/L. Conversely, an adult family with no health issues may be perfectly content with any level less than 4 pCi/L.
In preparing this article, we spoke with John Howard from Breakwater Inspections. John is a certified Home Inspector and a Maine Registered Radon Tester. He summed up the process of radon testing into this simple quote: “Radon testing is a simple process that is not intrusive on you or your family. The test is usually conducted in the basement with either a small monitoring machine or two small canisters. The devices are left to sample the air for two days then retrieved by the Radon Tester. Should the levels be above an acceptable range, radon mitigation can usually be completed relatively easily.”
As REALTORS, we want to be your primary resource for any questions about housing or home ownership. We have the basic information on most all major issues and can refer you to specific experts for specific issues such as radon.
We would love to hear your thoughts and questions about radon or any other housing related topic. Feel free contact us any time.
This article was prepared by Chuck Brawn. A real estate broker here at Dwelling In Maine.