Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that results from the natural breakdown of uranium in rock and soil. It migrates from the ground through the lowest level in a building. The types of rocks and soils known to produce radon are found throughout Ohio but are particularly prevalent in the mid-section of the state. Other sources of radon include construction materials and well water.
Exposure to radon is known to cause lung cancer (see the Radon and Cancer Fact Sheet from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health). The University of Toledo estimates that of the 7700 new lung cancer cases in Ohio each year, radon is responsible for at least 900 (11%) of them.
Radon is measured in units of concentration called picocuries per liter of air (abbreviated pCi/l). While it is not possible to rid a home of all radon, a level as low as 2 pCi/l is considered achievable. Installation of a radon reduction system is recommended for radon levels of 4 pCi/l and above. See the EPA’s A Citizen’s Guide to Radon.
It’s impossible to know the radon level in a building without testing. Buildings in high risk areas may have low levels of radon while homes in lower risk areas may test high. The Ohio Department of Health suggests that all owners test their properties for radon. Ohio law permits homeowners to do their own testing. Anyone else must use a licensed radon tester or mitigation specialist. Inexpensive short term (two to 90 days) and long-term tests (more than 90 days) are available.
Low cost radon tests are available through the Ohio Department of Health Indoor Radon Program while free radon tests are available in many Ohio counties, made possible through grants from the Indoor Radon Program. Air-Chek, Inc, maker of a widely used radon test for consumers, provides animated operating instructions for use of their test kit.
The most common way of reducing radon entering your home is through a vent pipe system and fan. The system pulls the radon from under the house and vents it to the outside through a pipe to the air above the home. The system works more efficiently and effectively if cracks are sealed in the foundation and other places. See the EPA’s Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction for detailed information on radon reduction (also called “mitigation”) systems.
According to the University of Toledo, the typical cost of a radon mitigation system in Ohio is between $600 and $1,200; the fan to run this system averages $70 per year in utility costs. The operating cost is due in part to the loss of conditioned air during ventilation. Energy savings from sealing cracks can help offset this cost. The fan must be replaced every 10-15 years at a cost of $150. Passive radon reduction systems built into a home during construction have no operating costs. However, they may not reduce radon below 4 pCi/l. In that case, a radon system can be installed at less cost than adding a system to a home built without a passive system. (See Radon-Resistant New Construction for additional information).
As required by Chapter 3723 of the Ohio Revised Code, all radon companies and personnel involved with testing and installation of radon reduction systems must be licensed. The Radon Licensing Program at the Ohio Department of Health is the entity responsible for managing the licensing program. The Program covers contractors, specialists who design and supervise installation of systems, radon testers, radon laboratories and the companies that provide radon training. In addition, the Program approves training for each of these classifications and inspects/audits their activities. The Radon Licensing Program maintains a data base of licensed radon testers and contractors.