Indoor air quality is a concern across the nation. In some cases, it can be worse than outdoor air quality. This is problematic, because most people spend the vast majority of their time indoors. While some indoor air pollutants are easily identifiable like mold and mildew, others are not so obvious. One of the most concerning of those invisible pollutants is radon.
Radon is a naturally-occurring gas that forms when uranium in the Earth breaks down. But just because it occurs naturally does not mean that it’s safe. Radon is radioactive and is known to cause lung cancer1, especially in smokers. The problem is, radon is colorless and odorless, so there’s no way to tell if it is present inside a home without testing for it.
There are also no immediate risks from breathing in radon like there are for carbon monoxide, for example, so how you’re feeling cannot be used as an indicator that something is wrong. This makes radon a particularly challenging health hazard and it is what makes radon mitigation services so important.
Testing For Radon In A Home: Radon is found in rocks, soil, and water. The air pressure inside a home is lower than the air pressure in the Earth’s crust. This difference in air pressure acts as a vacuum to draw radon out of the earth surrounding a building and into the building itself. Radon enters the structure through tiny cracks in the foundation and other gaps. It can enter homes of any age and any condition: old, new, with a basement, on a slab, sealed, drafty, etc.
Home testing kits allow property owners to easily identify whether or not they have radon in their home and at what levels. Professional testing is even more accurate. The EPA recommends that homeowners take steps to reduce radon levels if testing shows a result of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher, but there are no quick and easy do-it-yourself radon mitigation solutions. Reducing radon levels in a home requires the help of a professional trained in radon mitigation techniques. How common is it to have too-high levels? In Colorado, for examples, about half the homes have radon levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency recommended action level of 4 pCi/L.
Bryan Coy, Co-Founder of 5280 Radon Mitigation in Denver, Colorado says, “This has created a huge demand for EPA certified radon mitigators to install systems locally in Colorado. We are currently hiring because we don’t have enough staff to service all the requests we get.”
Radon Mitigation Reduces Human Exposure To This Dangerous Gas: Radon mitigation methods focus on preventing radon from entering the home and/or reducing radon levels after it has already entered the home. Radon mitigation measures are effective in as little as 24 hours after installation.
The type of mitigation system installed depends on the home’s foundation. Different methods are used for homes with basements versus crawlspaces versus concrete slabs. Common solutions include using underground pipes and an exhaust fan to reduce radon levels in the soil before it can enter the home. These “sub-slab depressurization” systems don’t require any major changes to the home and are used in conjunction with other efforts like sealing joints and cracks in floors and walls.
Radon mitigation technicians and specialists will conduct visual inspections and run diagnostic tests to determine where the radon is coming in and how much radon is inside the home. Using that information, they design and install systems that reduce radon levels in the soil around the home and the air inside the home. This requires specialized training and skills.
Becoming A Radon Technician: Training And Certification Requirements: There are several different types of jobs in the radon mitigation field. An individual may hold one or several certifications, each of which allows him or her to perform certain duties. Two organizations certify radon professionals in the U.S.: the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) and the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB).
Through these organizations, radon mitigation professionals can become certified to work in the radon mitigation industry. Certification is an on-going effort, which requires professionals to keep current with the latest regulations and mitigation-related technologies. Certifications may be obtained for:
- Radon Measurement Technician Or Provider. These technicians are trained in the placement and retrieval of radon measurement devices.
- Radon Measurement Specialist. Measurement Specialists are qualified to collect and analyze radon measurements as opposed to simply reporting the results.
- Radon Mitigation Specialist. Mitigation Specialists are trained to evaluate radon measurements, assess mitigation options, and properly design and install mitigation systems.
- Laboratories where radon measurement results are interpreted are also subject to certification requirements and proficiency testing.
Technician and Specialists certifications require classroom training, passing an exam, and meeting a certain number of continuing education hours every two years. To become certified, individuals need to take an approved training course and exam and then submit proof of having done so to either the NRPP or the NRSB along with a completed application form. At that point, the application and supporting documentation will be reviewed and certifications awarded if all requirements are met.
Protections In Place For Technicians: By now you’re probably thinking, “Ok. Radon is dangerous and these people work with it every day? How safe are these jobs?” The answer is very safe. Radon technicians are well-protected on the job. The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST) has developed standards and performance measures that help radon technicians stay safe and protect the households they are working in from radon exposure.
Certified technicians follow the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines for radon mitigation procedures. ANSI guidelines help ensure consistent mitigation practices and procedures across the industry, but also help ensure appropriate safety and protective measures are in place to keep technicians and specialists safe on the job.
If you’re someone who likes to work in the field, has a knack for interpreting scientific data, and want to do something to make homes safer, a radon mitigation position may be the right job for you.