One of the challenges we face with detecting and measuring levels of radon gas is that it’s odorless and tasteless. Unlike a natural gas leak, homeowners won’t know there’s a problem unless they specifically test for it.
A good way to determine the effects of radon gas is to check out picture frames, mirrors and other glass items in a house. This video shows what the reaction looks like in a protected cloud chamber.
This plastic chip from a radon testing device called an alpha track detector also shows the pitting and damage from radon. According to Illinois Radon Testers on ilradon.com, the chip was exposed to the EPA Action level of 4 pCi/l of radon for 3 months. This is the level at which the EPA recommends remediation action.
“The pitted areas caused by the breakdown of the alpha particle are clearly visible when viewed under a microscope at only 100 times magnification,” according to Illinois Radon Testers. “Although the above alpha track detector is plastic, some of the original alpha tracks were made of glass. The alpha particle had the same effect on glass as it did on this plastic.”
This effect on plastic and glass has been used by researchers to determine how long someone has been exposed to radon, and what effects this has had on their health.
The Iowa and Missouri Residential Radon Studies did just that in a five-year project. Using glass objects found in homes with high levels of radon, they were able to measure how radon levels changed over extended periods of time. They also were able to determine risks for cancer and other health conditions resulting from radon exposure.
A similar study was conducted in Sweden, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). “In a study published in 2002, scientists examined radon exposure among people in Sweden who had not smoked daily for more than a year. This study included 110 people with lung cancer and 231 people without lung cancer.”
Scientist measured radon levels in the air. They also “took measurements from glass in an object (e.g., a mirror or picture frame) that was at least 15 years old and had been in the person’s home throughout that time, even if the person had moved from one home to another,” NCI said.
“In this study, both of the techniques for measuring radon demonstrated a relationship between long-term exposure to radon and lung cancer, and supported the results of previous studies.”
The EPA recommends re-measuring the radon levels in your home every two years. If it’s time for your home to be re-checked, call SRE HomeServices at 402-970-1350 to set up your appointment.