January Is Best Time to Detect Radon in Homes; SE Nebraskans Told
Radon testing of homes is encouraged in January. University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) extension educators provided information and free home radon test kits Friday, Jan. 20. Information was presented to residents of Nemaha and other Southeast Nebraska counties.
About 15 persons attended the information session in the morning at the 4-H Building. There were sessions later Jan. 20 at Tecumseh, Pawnee City and Falls City.
The eastern third of Nebraska and southern Nebraska are areas with the highest potential for radon, UNL Extension officials reported.
Gary Lesoing, UNL extension educator, said UNL extension officials received a grant from the Nebraska Radon Program. That made free do-it-yourself radon testing kits available. Radon is a major issue in Southeast Nebraska, he said.
January is Radon Awareness Month. Rebecca Versch, UNL extension educator from Blair, said that radon testing of homes was encouraged in January. That was the most likely time to detect it, she said. Versch said that was based on factors such as cold weather, frozen soil and houses are usually closed up. That allowed less air exchange.
Testing Only Way To Determine If There The Level is High
There is no way to predict for sure which houses might be affected by radon, Versch said. She said that the only way to know if a home has a high level of radon was to test it.
Short-term testing kits were given to attendees. The kits were for five days testing. Short- and long-term testing kits are available. Long-term testing kits are for 90 days, Versch said.
Radon testing kits are available at hardware and home improvement stores. Officials of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will provide kits for nominal fees, she said.
Versch said that the do-it-yourself kits are easy to use. The results are as accurate as a professional test, she said.
Homeowners are urged to close their homes 12 hours before the test. Versch urged homeowners to keep all windows and doors closed during radon tests. However, homeowners may operate their home’s heating and cooling system. Homeowners may operate their radon reduction system if they have one. Versch said that while testing, do not operate fans or other machines which bring air in from outside.
Kit Placement Recommended In High Use Area
Recommended placement of a radon test kit is on the lowest level suitable for occupancy, Versch said.
The kit should be placed in a basement if you have one. The kit should be placed in a regularly used room. Suggestions included a living room, family room, den or bedroom. If you use your basement sporadically, Versch said that you should test upstairs.
Radon testing should be conducted away from areas of high humidity, Versch said. She did not recommend testing in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room.
Testing kits should be kept away from drafts and high heat, she said. Kits should be placed at least 20 inches above the floor. The air that you actually breathe will be tested. Kits should be placed at least 12 inches away from exterior walls. Cold air coming through walls will have an effect. Kits should also be placed at least four inches away from any objects that would serve as a shelter, Versch said.
Testing should be avoided during periods of winds of more than 30 mph and during severe storms, she said.
Versch said when using the kits distributed Jan. 20, homeowners must record the time of day the kit was set out and leave it there for five days. Homeowners must record the time of day the kit was removed, she said.
She encouraged that homeowners note the kit number. Versch also suggested that homeowners request that a printed copy of results be sent.
Testing Levels From Area Counties
Radon is measured in picocuries per level (pCi/L) and working level (WL). The average indoor air level nationally is 1.3 pCi/L. The average indoor air level in Nebraska is 6 pCi/L. The average outdoor air level is four-tenths pCi/L. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials’ Action Level is 4 pCi/L. Current technology Action Level is below 2 pCi/L. Versch said that there was no “safe” level.
In Nebraska, indoor air level in half of homes was above 4 pCi/L. Nationally that was the level in one of 15 homes. In Nebraska, three of every 100 homes have indoor air levels above 20 pCi/L. Nationally, one of every 1,000 homes has levels above 20 pCi/L.
The following information for Southeast Nebraska counties were the latest available figures:
–Nemaha County: Based on 338 tests, 78 percent of homes tested above 4 pCi/L. The average reading was 11.6 pCi/L. The highest reading was 79.4.
–Johnson County: Based on 92 tests, 78 percent of homes tested above 4 pCi/L. The average reading was 10.8 pCi/L. The highest reading was 47.9.
–Pawnee County: Based on 116 tests, 59 percent of homes tested above 4 pCi/L. The average reading was 6.9 pCi/L. The highest reading was 71.9.
–Richardson County: Based on 339 tests, 73 percent of homes tested above 4 pCi/L. The average reading was 9.9 pCi/L. The highest reading was 123.8.
Versch was asked if radon levels have increased over time. She said that as more data was obtained, numbers should become more accurate. Since the mid 1980s, officials have tracked radon test results inside structures. Accumulated data provides a better idea where the high risk areas are, Versch said.
–If the pCi/L is between zero and 4, no action is needed. Homeowners are recommended to retest every two years. Homeowners should retest if alterations are made to the home.
–If the pCi/L is between 4-8, the home should be retested using a short or long term kit. The home should be repaired if the long term results are above 4 pCi/L or if the average of two short term tests are above 4 pCi/L.
–If the pCi/L is above 8, the home should be retested using another short term test. The home should be repaired if the average of two short term tests was above 4 pCi/L.
Follow-up Meetings in Late February
Monday, Feb. 27, three follow-up meetings are scheduled. Homeowners who received kits are asked to bring their radon test results to the meetings.
The Auburn meeting is from 1:30-3 p.m. at the 4-H Building.
Other meetings are: Pawnee City, 10-11:30 a.m., courthouse basement and Falls City, 5:30-7 p.m., First United Methodist Church basement, 17th and Harlan.
Mark Versch is clinician. He is an environmental health analyst with the Nebraska Radon Program.
The Nebraska Radon Program contact telephone number is 1-800-334-9491.
Several EPA publications are available. Those include: A Citizen’s Guide to Radon; Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction; Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon and Building Radon Out. Most radon publications are available at: www.epa.gov/radon/pubs.