Granite in Your Home Should Be Tested For Radon
As homeowners, we take many precautions to insure the safety of our families. We purchase smoke detectors, build fences around pools and put childproof locks on our doors. But there is one danger that most homeowners are not even aware of that can pose a serious threat. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that more than 1 in 15 homes have dangerously high levels of radon, a radioactive gas that has been linked to serious health problems.
Because radon cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, the only way to determine its presence is by radon testing. Radon is a naturally occurring gas, and we are all exposed to small amounts of it in our daily lives. This kind of exposure to radiation is known as ‘incidental exposure’ and while it is not considered healthy, it is regarded as dangerous. However, high levels of radon gas in the home leads to a chronic and unsafe level of exposure.
Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today, second only to smoking. It has also been associated with increased risk of childhood leukemia. This is why the EPA strongly recommends that all residences be tested at least once per year for the presence of radon. Levels of the gas do fluctuate over time so it is important that any one elevated reading is re-checked for accuracy.
Uranium and other radioactive elements release radon gas as a byproduct of their decay. Thus, soil and rocks are a primary source of the gas. This explains why lower levels of buildings are more seriously affected. Radon is present in large amounts in soil and enters buildings through a natural ‘suction’ process in which the gas moves from an area of high pressure (the ground) to an area of lower pressure (the residence). Once the gas is inside of a home, it is difficult for it to escape, and the concentration increases over time. Contaminated water can also contribute to high levels of radon in the home, because gas escapes each times the faucet is turned on.
Granite counter tops or floors are a newly publicized source of radon gas, as granite contains uranium and other elements that release radon. Many environmental building experts are concerned that the use of granite in homes is contributing to radon exposure. Critics in the marble and granite industry maintain that any amount of radon released in this way is negligible, but in consideration of the serious consequences of radon exposure, it would be wise to limit any way for radon to get into your home. Unfortunately, there is no way to detect the presence of radon except through tests specifically designed for this purpose. If testing indicates an excessive radon level, the counters and or flooring will need to be replaced.
The good news, however, is that home testing kits are readily available and they are simple to use. The most inexpensive type of home test is the passive activated charcoal test. A small bag or box that is filled with charcoal is placed in the living space and left for a specified amount of time. During this period, the charcoal absorbs gases in the room that can later be analyzed to obtain a radon level. Radon detectors that function in the same way as a carbon monoxide detector can also be used. They are quite a bit more expensive than the simpler counterparts but do provide an ongoing record of your home’s radon levels. The best place to purchase a radon test is through a company that can offer you technical assistance and advice in the event that you should need it.
If you prefer not to conduct the test yourself, or would feel better having a professional handle it, you can call Olympian to schedule an appointment if you are within the New York and New Jersey areas. There are several different organizations that provide independent certification for radon testing services. States have different licensing requirements for testers; you can check your state’s radon office for a list of service providers. Obviously, the disadvantage to having someone else do your testing for you is that it is obviously more expensive than home test kits. However, if you would like a permanent record of the test results, a radon professional test kit is the way to go, especially if or when you decide to sell your home.