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Tips for a successful summer radon test

Published: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 10:23 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 14, 2017 3:48 p.m. CST

Jasper County Health Department

You can’t see it, smell it or taste it in your home but there may be dangerous levels of radon lurking in your house. Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil. It is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas that seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air.

Radon can enter homes through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations, and collect indoors. It can also be released from building materials, or from water obtained from wells that contain radon. Radon levels can be higher in homes that are well insulated, tightly sealed, and/or built on soil rich in the elements uranium, thorium, and radium. Basement and first floors typically have the highest radon levels because of their closeness to the ground.

Testing is the only way to know if a person’s home has elevated radon levels. Indoor radon levels are affected by the soil under and around the house, and the ease with which radon enters the house. Homes that are next door to each other can have different indoor radon levels, making a neighbor’s test result a poor predictor of radon risk. In addition, rain or snow, barometric pressure, and other influences can cause radon levels to vary from month to month or day to day, which is why both short- and long-term tests are available.

If planning on testing your home for radon this summer keep a few things in mind. Did you know that many factors, such as open windows and doors, air conditioning units, and fans can alter the results of your test results? Before scheduling your summer radon test, keep in mind the following:

1. Keep a closed house

With the hot summer temperatures, many of us choose not to leave the windows and doors open anyway, but it is important to note that you must shut all windows and doors at least 12 hours before the test begins and keep them shut throughout the test. You can still use your doors to enter and leave your house, of course, but otherwise keep them closed.

2. Use central air conditioning

Feel free to use central air conditioning to keep your house cool during radon testing. Be careful, though, when using window and wall air conditioning units, as no air from the outside should enter the house. If you are able, switch the setting so the units are simply recirculating the air inside the house, rather than bringing in additional outside air.

3. Control indoor fans

Keeping cool in the summer can be a difficult, and although it can be tempting to run fans on full blast throughout the house, control the ones that are near the radon testing unit, by redirecting the airflow or simply turning the fan nearest to the testing unit on low. These units can be extremely sensitive and constant blowing air can throw off the test results.

4. Plan ahead – take a vacation.

For some families, summer is the best option for radon testing, as one or more parent may be home from work. However, children entering and leaving the house can make for faulty test results. To avoid the heavy traffic, consider planning a vacation during your radon testing week. Your family will enjoy the time away and your radon kit won’t get disturbed. 

Jasper County Health Department has radon kits available for ten dollars. Call Kristina Winfield, public health coordinator, with any questions at 641-787-9224.

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