Radon testing is simple—and takes only minutes to set up. Stop by your local hardware store or go online to pick up a test kit…place the cannister in the lowest level of your home that you spend time in…give it time (typically 48 hours) to collect an air sample…and mail the cannister to the lab. That’s all you have to do! Results are typically mailed and/or e-mailed to you within a week or so. 

Here’s how to evaluate your test results, based on recommendations from the EPA…

• Below 2 pCi/L. Relax, but remember to retest every five or 10 years.

• Borderline levels (2 pCi/L to 4 pCi/L). Do a second test. If the second test confirms the first, you have a choice—either begin remediation now or monitor levels by retesting.

• High levels (4 pCi/L or above). There are literally no “safe” levels of radon exposure, but the EPA says that you should take action if radon is this high in your home. If DIY sealing doesn’t bring down the levels—and a repeat test confirms that they are high—find a radon mitigation contractor. Consult your state’s radon office for advice on licenses, registration or certification that may be required for mitigation experts.

Until you can arrange for remediation, keep the windows open. Fresh air will help to dilute the radon concentration indoors. Also, try not to spend significant amounts of time in the basement. Radon levels there are typically two to three times higher than on the first floor.

Important: For the most accurate results, be sure to follow instructions on the test kit carefully. For example, do not move the test device or open doors and windows in the testing area while the air sample is being collected. Weather patterns, such as high winds or storms, can make your results lower or higher than normal. 

For more information, read the EPA’s “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.” It’ll walk you through the process and guide your decision-making. For renters: Get more information about radon testing and remediation in rental properties from the EPA’s report “Radon Guide for Tenants.” Both reports can be found at EPA.gov/radon.

Source: Gary G. Schwartz, PhD, chair of the department of population health in the School of Medicine & Health Sciences at University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Dr. Schwartz is author of more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and coauthor of “Radon and Lung Cancer: What Does the Public Really Know?” recently published in Journal of Environmental Radioactivity.