Now that we have covered the “Why” of radon testing in the post “Why Radon Gas is Not to be Ignored?”, lets take a look at the “How”?
Testing for radon is very simple. You can either purchase a do-it-yourself test kit or contact a certified Radon Measurement Professional to come and do it for you.
Do-it-yourself kits are user-friendly and inexpensive. So, unless you have specific constraints or reasons for engaging a third-party e.g., for the purpose of independent assessment, do-it-yourself route is a reasonable option.
Test-kits can be purchased online or through a department store , e.g. Home Depot .
If you Google “radon-test” you will get a long list of potential suppliers. How do you choose? There are not set rules, but here are some points that you might find helpful to consider:
1. Service Provider Qualifications
Check if your supplier of choice is a Registered Measurement Professional or a C-NRPP certified Radon Analytical Laboratory. C-NRPP stands for Canadian – National Radon Proficiency Program. It establishes guidelines for training professionals in radon services in Canada. If you supplier is certified, it means that he or she has gone through the training, passed the exam and is continuously updating their education; if it is a laboratory, it also adheres to very specific quality control standards.
For a list of certified professionals please click here: Find a Professional
Prices may vary from $13 per device for a department store charcoal kit, on the low end, to $250 for a continuous monitoring device , on the high end. Generally, you will find yourself somewhere in the range of $30 to $65 dollars, depending on the device.
When evaluating your options we encourage you consider the following:
- are laboratory fees included in the price (with $13 option it would normally be an add-on)
- what part (if any) of shipping and handling costs are included in the price
3. Service Scope and Quality
Because prices for the same type of testing device may differ only marginally, when choosing your supplier you might want to consider the following;
- experience supplier has had with radon testing
- access to live support throughout testing process (what is your preferred communication mode? Would you like a live person you can call to discuss your test results or will E-mail suffice?)
- Where is the laboratory analysis performed? ( the latter is of no particular consequence other than personal preference. If you wish to have your results analysed by a Canadian company, look for a certified radon analytical laboratory. If it is not a local lab, your test will go to the US for analysis, which is not a negative by any means, just a longer supply chain)
4. Where, When and for How Long to Test?
Health Canada recommends that home owners do a long-term radon test, for a minimum of three months, during the fall or winter months. In choosing where to place the detector we suggest you consider the lowest lived in level of the home (typically any place where homeowners spend a minimum of 4 hours per day). When positioning the detector, try to choose a location which best represents the air you breathe. For example, if you do not spend all your time in the bathroom (and we do not judge if you do) this may not be the optimal testing location.
5. Choice of the Device
We recommend that you choose a technology that has been approved by the C-NRPP. http://c-nrpp.ca/approved-radon-measurement-devices
Your two likely choices are : Alpha Track Detector and Electret Ion Chamber (known as E-Perm) . Descriptions that follow are the courtesy of Take Action on Radon Campaign resources:
Alpha Track Detector
These detectors use a small piece of special plastic enclosed in a container. The detector is exposed to the air in a home for a specified time. When the radon in the air enters the chamber, the alpha particles produced by decay leave marks on the plastic. At the end of the test the detector is returned to a laboratory for analysis, and the average radon concentration is calculated.
When shopping for alpha track devices, try to choose a technology which has a filter installed over the air entry port. This removes the airborne decay products and ensures the devices is measuring the radon gas concentration only. In technical jargon – it makes the device less sensitive to the radon “equilibrium ratio” inside the home.
Electret Ion Chamber
This detector contains a disk called an “electret,” which has an electrostatic charge housed in a container. When the detector is exposed to the air in a home for a specified time, the radon in the air enters the container and the ionization produced by decay reduce the electret charge. The difference in the charge is measured by a specialized voltmeter, and from that the average radon concentration is calculated.
Both devices will do the job. For our own purpose at the Institute have decided to use E-Perm for home testing to stay environmentally friendly (the chambers and electrets can be re-used and have no waste).
Understanding Your Results
We will talk more about the different action levels later on, for now we would like you to keep in mind just one figure 200 Bq/m³. Should your test come back with the result higher than 200 Bq/m³ – Health Canada recommends that remedial measures should be taken.