If you live in New Hampshire, radon testing is necessary, and radon mitigation is possible.
Learn the facts about radon in your water supply
New England’s geology is known for being rocky. It’s what gave us those historical stone walls and New Hampshire its nickname – the Granite State. The geology of New England also makes homes susceptible to radon, which can enter the home through its water supply.
Radon is colorless, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas. It is produced from the decay of the element radium, which occurs naturally in rocks and soil. Radon gas can dissolve in groundwater and later be released into the air through your home’s water supply.
When radon accumulates in the indoor air, it can lead to health risks, including lung cancer. The National Academy of Sciences has estimated that radon is responsible for approximately 19,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that number could be higher.
The radon in your water is both an inhalation risk and an ingestion risk, but research has shown that your risk of lung cancer from breathing radon in air is much larger than your risk of stomach cancer from swallowing water with radon in it. Where radon in water poses the most risk is when it is released into the air during showering, washing the dishes or during household chores.
Radon enters the home three ways:
- It migrates up through the soil and through cracks in a home’s foundation. This is the most common cause of radon in the home.
- It is released from building materials, such as granite block foundation, fireplace stone, or floor and/or wall tiles. This is the second most common cause.
- It is released into the air when water containing dissolved radon gas is run in the home. Radon from building materials is rare.
Because radon is so common, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set an advisory “action level” of radon in indoor air to give people a guideline when testing. There are no water quality standards for private home wells in New Hampshire. However, the Department of Health and Human Services and the NH Department of Environmental Services recommend homeowners take steps to remove radon from the water supply when the average concentration exceeds 2,000 picocuries per liter. Proposed regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would prohibit community water systems from providing water to their customers that contained more than 4,000 picocuries per liter. This is usually used as a baseline when testing water from private wells.
Radon can occur in any home, but in New Hampshire, elevated radon levels are most common in the north, east and southeastern portions of the state. Skillings & Sons recommends that homeowners conduct radon testing to see if radon is in their water supply and if radon is entering the home through migration to pinpoint exactly the cause of contamination if any. This will help determine what methods should be taken to reduce the contamination. Radon mitigation is possible once the cause of contamination is known.
There are several techniques for measuring radon concentrations, some are short-term tests that are as brief as two days, others are designed to estimate radon concentrations for up to one year. The most common technique is short-term tests that collect radon with activated carbon.
Homeowners who wish to learn more about radon testing can do so through their state’s environmental protection agency or health agency. Skillings & Sons also advises the homeowner on testing procedures and can help conduct the test. Contact us for information on testing for radon.