Radon Testing

Testing for radon gasAll of our home inspectors are licensed radon measurement technicians and can conduct radon testing in the State of New Jersey. Some states do not require licensing. Consult your attorney to determine all details and EPA testing requirements prior to closing.

Radon gas is an odorless, colorless radioactive gas that emanates from soil and/or rock formations and can cause lung cancer. The State of New Jersey has advised that all residential dwellings be tested to ensure against dangerous levels of radon gas. The state has determined that over 25% of residential structures may have “unacceptable” levels.

Radon gas becomes a health risk when levels exceed 4 pCi/l (a level determined by the State of New Jersey Dept of EPA). Radon gas usually enters a dwelling through basement walls, floor cracks, wall cracks, sump pump openings, drain systems, Etc. It can also be present in water. Structures that are built on slabs can also be affected and should be tested to ensure safe levels.

Certified Radon Business Affiliation

Radiation Data
PO Box 150
Skillman, NJ 08558

In almost all cases, radon levels can be brought under control by adequately sealing all entry points and/or by installing a radon mitigation system that will provide increased ventilation. All mitigation work must be performed by a licensed radon mitigation company.

There are basically two types of radon testing devices that are frequently used for real estate transactions.

  1. Charcoal Canisters
    This type of method uses activated charcoal to “absorb” the Radon gas in its inert stage (prior to decay). The canister is placed in the lowest available living area (usually the basement) where Radon levels tend to be the highest. Charcoal canisters must be left on-site for a minimum of 48 hours to a maximum of 6 days (canisters may vary). At the conclusion of the testing period, the canister is sealed up and sent to an EPA certified laboratory for testing. If the concentrated radon level exceeds 4 pCi/l, it is considered “unacceptable” and mitigation options may need to be considered.
  2. Working Level Monitor
    This type of radon test requires a computer to be left on site for the full duration of the testing period. The State of New Jersey requires a minimum stay of 24 hours, however; a minimum testing period of 48 hours is also advised. These types of computers are designed to test for radon progeny (decay products) and are reported in working levels (WL). (2 WL is the approximate equivalent of the 4 pCi/l standard.) If the radon level exceeds 2 WL, it is considered “unacceptable” and mitigation options may need to be considered.

These types of computers are considered “active devices” and are designed to take air samples at a predetermined rate based on the programming. In most cases, they are set up to take air samples at 30 minute intervals for the duration of the test. The upside to this type of test is the ability to see the different fluctuations of the “Alpha Particles” (radon progeny) for the full testing period. The downside is that the computers have to be continually calibrated in order to achieve accurate results. The State of New Jersey mandates that these types of testing devices be calibrated every 6 months. After using these types of devices for several years, it became apparent that they literally had to be calibrated every few days to achieve accurate results.

Radon testing for real estate transactions is very limited due to the short testing period. A short-term test will only provide a “picture” of the radon levels as projected over a full year of testing. Longer term testing devices (Alpha Track or similar device) will yield a much more accurate determination. Unfortunately, these longer term tests are not practical for real estate transactions since the average closing process on a home takes less than 3 months. Also, any type of radon testing is subject to tampering and can be affected by environmental conditions (snow, high humidity, rainfall, seasonal changes, Etc.). Generally, higher radon levels are found in the winter months when structures are closed up to conserve heat. Greater ventilation will usually lower radon levels. However, dependent on the type of ventilation, levels may increase due to a draft effect. If a radon test comes back above 4 pCi/l or 2 WL, it is strongly advised that you consult with a licensed radon mitigation expert prior to closing. If the test is borderline, re-testing is advised.