“Radon in the Seattle area? Will my Seattle area home inspector look for radon gas?” The short answer, probably not.
Lets start with the basics, though. “What is Radon?” Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is known to cause lung cancer or at very least significantly increase your chances of getting lung cancer. “I’ll smell it or see it wafting about!” you may think, but radon is odorless and invisible. The only way to know for sure if your indoor air quality is being impacted is to have radon testing done to determine your home’s level of exposure. Your Seattle based home inspector may or may not have the type of equipment available at his/her disposal to properly test for radon. “I’ll be sure to have my home tested for radon then!” …but should you?
“How concerned should I be about radon in the Seattle area?” Due to below average levels (nationally speaking), you really shouldn’t be terribly concerned. If you are, by all means get your home tested to ensure it’s not an anomaly. Below is a map of the nation which shows the predicted fraction of homes thought to have radon levels over 4 “picocuries per liter”, shown as pCi/L. The EPA recommends “action” be taken if your home’s radon levels are in excess of 4 pCi/L.
This map gives us a good idea of where the most dangerous areas are. But lets take a closer look at Washington state and furthermore, the Seattle area.
Okay, now we can clearly see that there are areas in Washington that have higher levels of radon. People in these areas should absolutely be investing in radon testing to ensure their home’s air quality is satisfactory (or, much better than satisfactory, if you prefer). Radon mitigation is surprisingly, not terribly expensive. So if you have a problem, either in your water or your soil, get it taken care of to ensure you and your loved ones (or tenants) are not at an elevated risk of exposure.
“Wait! Radon can be in my water as well as my soil?!” Yup! Because the radon is coming up from the ground, there are 2 places that are the most likely source; water & soil. Radon is expelled from your water when it is aspirated or agitated (think: the spraying of a shower, watering the lawn or washing clothes).
“If I have radon in my water, do I also have radon in my soil?” Nope, though, it’s absolutely possible. The presence of soil gas radon does not indicate or foretell the presence of radon in well water (as well as vice versa).
“So now that I know more than I probably ever thought I would about radon, where do I go from here?” That, my friend, is up to you. According to maps provided by the EPA as well as more specified maps in our geographic area we know that there is a low risk of radon in the greater Seattle area. If I were a parent or had a loved with a condition which put him/her at a higher risk due to compromised lung health, I’d look into having my home tested. Here’s a blurb from National Radon Defense
“Professional radon tests are usually faster and more accurate than Do It Yourself tests
Although Do It Yourself-type radon test kits are very accurate, they must be used correctly by the homeowner to avoid false results. It’s important for all family members to follow the testing instructions carefully to ensure accurate readings. Otherwise, you will need to do several Do It Yourself tests before you are confident in the results. Another disadvantage is that you need to mail the detector into the lab and wait for the results.”
In summary, radon testing in the Seattle area is a viable option for someone highly concerned or at higher risk due to compromised lungs. At this time, it is my opinion, based on my understanding of facts stated by the EPA that we (in the Seattle area) have very little to be concerned about with regards to radon gas. Now that you’ve been educated a little on the subject, how will you decide?