Author Topic: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation  (Read 3932 times)

Frugal Lizard

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Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« on: May 19, 2017, 11:31:52 AM »
Our municipality was trying to get people to test for radon.  Since our master bedroom is in the basement, I thought I had better do a test to make sure there was no problem.  Bought a kit, ran the test and got the results back yesterday.  Radon level is 255 in some units per cubic meter.  The safe level, is 200.  For 200-600 of those same units, public health recommends installing mitigation within the next two years.  Over 600 and the recommendation is to install immediately.

So we have started researching. Before I start getting prices and having folks troupe through my basement, I thought  I would see what the MMM Forum of wide experience and expertise has to say.

Are the fan venting systems loud? 
Is installation of this type of system an experts only thing - or am I needing an expert only to certify that the radon is acceptably low now that we have a positive test?

For now the window is open and I am keeping warm in three layers.  Until October, we can sleep with the window open. I can't deal with this by keeping a window open all winter - it gets too damn cold here.

Ottawa

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2017, 11:56:25 AM »
Good for you for checking out the safety of your basement!  We just moved house and conducted a similar test.  Our level was 212 Bq/m3 using the 3 month test over the winter. 

The first thing I did was buy this https://airthings.com/home/, which is a digital radon detector.  I did some sealing mitigation with caulking around areas suggested in the pdf manual you probably received with your test?  Over the past 2 months the levels in my basement using the radon meter are around 190.  I find they fluctuate quite widely from day to day (we've had 50 - over 400).   

As such, we decided that we definitely want to mitigate this situation.

I'm quite confident that mitigation is something a homeowner can do on their own, and I will be going ahead with it this summer.  My understanding from some research is that you are looking at over $2,000 to have someone do the job.  I feel that the job can be done DIY-style for around $600 including the radon meter. 

So far, I purchased a $60 manometer and did a field test under my basement slab to make sure there is air flow (there is) and determine based on these measurements (and square footage of slab) what size of fan I would require.  Turns out this fan will work http://www.radoncontrol.ca/rp140-radon-fan.html which is great because it is a low power consumption unit (15-21 W).  My understanding is that you can hardly hear this even in the same room.  I will be installing in the utility room. 

I will probably use 3" PVC and a couple of 4" to 3" reducers from fan-pipe connections as well as a couple of angled pieces to provide the venting from slab to outdoors.  This can be purchased at home depot for maybe $100.  I will likely rent a 3" concrete drill for getting through the slab.  I already have an unused 4" fresh air dump for the old furnace.  I will repurpose this hole for my radon vent. 

Also, if you have any moisture/humidity issues in your basement - this will (apparently) deal with that, since the air under the slab is basically being vacated, which creates a negative pressure which prevents the radon/moisture laden sub slab air from getting into the basement. 

If you have a sump pump etc, connected soil crawlspace etc...you may require more steps than those outlined above.  The pdf manual you received will outline what to do in that event.

I figure  this whole job should be a day. 

Gilly

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2017, 11:59:33 AM »
If you have a window open make sure air is flowing into the house instead of out. Don't open your upstairs windows because it will create a stack effect and more subsurface air will enter, potentially increasing the concentrations.
The install is very much dependent on your house. Essentially the goal is to depressurize the subsurface and they will install a number of ports through the slab, hook it up to a blower that is either outside of your house or in the highest non-living space in the house.
It is relatively simple in many cases, but poorly designed systems can be a nightmare or if your house is very old, with multiple slabs or crawl spaces.
https://cceevents.umn.edu/radon-training-courses/required-reading
These reading can give you a better idea.
My training is in a dealing with chemical vapor intrusion, which operates under 90% of the same principals.
Things you want are a certified radon mitigator; not just an inspector. Your health department should have a list. Make sure they can explain why they chose which fan, because different blowers operate better under different conditions. If they can't explain what a pressure field extension test is DON'T hire them (essentially a test to make sure the sub-slab is depressurized relative to the basement. It should be conducted with the house generating the most pull on the subsurface).
I have heard that systems go for about 2k-3k in the Midwest, but haven't had to deal with payment myself.
Due to issues such as back drafting, risk of hitting utilities, drilling through your slab or foundation, needing a manometer, and code requirements for the system; hire somebody.
One area you could save money on is sealing subsurface connections into the house. I don't remember the best sealers, but if you ask the radon professional they should be able to guide you to what to use. Areas to seal would be utility entrances into your house, foundation cracks, getting a sump cover that is airtight but relatively easy to remove, and checking under any bathtubs in the basement that may have excessive soil exposed.
edited to add, if you have previous construction experience with homes you could do it yourself but the learning curve is steep, messing it up can make it worse, and hopefully it is only a 1 time thing
« Last Edit: May 19, 2017, 12:01:36 PM by L. WereBear »

Gilly

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2017, 12:50:54 PM »
...
I'm quite confident that mitigation is something a homeowner can do on their own, and I will be going ahead with it this summer.  My understanding from some research is that you are looking at over $2,000 to have someone do the job.  I feel that the job can be done DIY-style for around $600 including the radon meter. 

So far, I purchased a $60 manometer and did a field test under my basement slab to make sure there is air flow (there is) and determine based on these measurements (and square footage of slab) what size of fan I would require.  Turns out this fan will work http://www.radoncontrol.ca/rp140-radon-fan.html which is great because it is a low power consumption unit (15-21 W).  My understanding is that you can hardly hear this even in the same room.  I will be installing in the utility room. 

I will probably use 3" PVC and a couple of 4" to 3" reducers from fan-pipe connections as well as a couple of angled pieces to provide the venting from slab to outdoors.  This can be purchased at home depot for maybe $100.  I will likely rent a 3" concrete drill for getting through the slab.  I already have an unused 4" fresh air dump for the old furnace.  I will repurpose this hole for my radon vent. 
...

Some tips if you are going to do it yourself, make the sump when you are removing the air from as large as you can. The sump should be placed away from walls and drainage tiles that exit the perimeter of the foundation, because you can short circuit. If you can't get good air removal and pressure field extension from a point, remove more soil from the sump. If you can't remove more and still can't get pressure field extension you need either more extraction points or higher air flow or a different location. Map out the piping pathway so you have the fewest bends. The fan cannot be in a habitable living space.Best place for the fan is in an attic that isn't habitable. All pipe that is in a habitable space must be before the fan. The discharge point should be >2ft above any opening in your house and >5 ft. total away. Check your local requirements for stack height and labeling requirement. 
*shrug*
I'd never recommend this as a DIY but it is certainly possible to do. Though I'd suggest to plan for a weekend. It takes professionals about a day to install a system so expect it to take you longer, but you sound like you have somewhat of a start with the pressure field extension test. I'm actually interest in how you did it since the best way I know means you already drilled some holes in your slab and you reference needing to rent a drill.


Indio

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2017, 01:05:17 PM »
My radon system is located near my  sump system. I had sump enlarged and installed a large "barrel" with two pumps, primary and backup. Top of the barrel is sealed tightly so that is not an escape route for radon gas.
The radon remediation system is next to this and the dehumidifier. I have the whole system connected to a backup generator in th event we lose power, which happened yesterday. Power outages that last a few hours aren't bad, but the ones that last a few days are more problematic for radon system. 
Venting the exhaust pipe high enough so it doesn't go back into the house is key. Sometimes a stronger fan is a better idea if the footprint of the house is large. Then you don't need two systems.

KCM5

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2017, 01:20:51 PM »
Our radon mitigation system was installed (by a pro - $1200, 4 years ago, midwestern US) on one of our two sump holes. Basically, the entrance to the sump was sealed with a piece of plastic with a pipe coming out of it. The pipe then goes through the wall and the fan is located outside. The emissions pipe then goes up to discharge above the roofline.

It didn't look complicated, but I wasn't comfortable enough to determine what the right course of action was, so called a pro. I'm happy with it. They tested before and after. The levels dropped to below the action level quite quickly.

The fan is located outside. It emits a slight whine and I can hear it when I'm sitting inside next to it and the window is open.

Trudie

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2017, 02:19:10 PM »
I live in the Midwest and we had a radon mitigation system installed about 8 years ago in our new home.  Our builder put in the "escape" PVC pipe near our sump hole in the basement.  This was linked to an attic fan, which we cannot hear at all.  The cost of the original work (made easier, no doubt, by the fact the pipe was already installed) was under $500.  We recently had to replace the fan for $150.  Worth every penny, though, especially if you spend a lot of time in your lower level (as we do).

Ottawa

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2017, 06:59:07 AM »
Some tips if you are going to do it yourself, make the sump when you are removing the air from as large as you can. The sump should be placed away from walls and drainage tiles that exit the perimeter of the foundation, because you can short circuit. If you can't get good air removal and pressure field extension from a point, remove more soil from the sump. If you can't remove more and still can't get pressure field extension you need either more extraction points or higher air flow or a different location. Map out the piping pathway so you have the fewest bends. The fan cannot be in a habitable living space.Best place for the fan is in an attic that isn't habitable. All pipe that is in a habitable space must be before the fan. The discharge point should be >2ft above any opening in your house and >5 ft. total away. Check your local requirements for stack height and labeling requirement. 
*shrug*
I'd never recommend this as a DIY but it is certainly possible to do. Though I'd suggest to plan for a weekend. It takes professionals about a day to install a system so expect it to take you longer, but you sound like you have somewhat of a start with the pressure field extension test. I'm actually interest in how you did it since the best way I know means you already drilled some holes in your slab and you reference needing to rent a drill.

Thanks WereBear.  Yes, I plan on placing my sump around 2 feet from one corner of the house.  My field testing looks good from there.  I agree on the weekend!  Though, I will likely be doing this project with a neighbour who is interested in doing the same...pending the results of his 3 month test. 
Regarding holes:  I used a 1/4 inch concrete bit on my hammer drill to extend my field.  My reference point is a 1" hole near where the system will be installed.  The 1" hole was from where the air conditioner used to dump water (I installed a pump over to a proper drain).  I don't have a large 3" bit and they cost around $250.  I think renting would be the more frugal option on that...

I will update this post with some pictures when I start/complete installation.  Cheers

Mgmny

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2017, 11:19:17 AM »
So... probably the unpopular opinion here, but my radon levels in the home we bought 2 years ago are "elevated" but not to the point the leading authorities recommend we do anything about it.

When looking into the risk of lung cancer from radon, it was tiny. Like, I'm not sure why anyone mitigates their radon based on the increased risk factor. I think you would need to inhale a TON of radon for it to be a significant risk factor, and i don't think those levels exist in your home.

Mgmny

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2017, 11:27:45 AM »
And, because i'm feeling generous, here's a peer reviewed article that is hosted on ncbi at the national institute of health suggesting that Radon DECREASES lung cancer risk.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3315166/

PoutineLover

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2017, 11:31:45 AM »
So... probably the unpopular opinion here, but my radon levels in the home we bought 2 years ago are "elevated" but not to the point the leading authorities recommend we do anything about it.

When looking into the risk of lung cancer from radon, it was tiny. Like, I'm not sure why anyone mitigates their radon based on the increased risk factor. I think you would need to inhale a TON of radon for it to be a significant risk factor, and i don't think those levels exist in your home.
This is an old article, but I just read this story yesterday, there is good reason to test for and mitigate levels of radon.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/radon-gas-suspected-in-prince-george-bc-family-tragedy-1.3266622
And here's an interesting breakdown of the actual risk by level
https://www.epa.gov/radon/health-risk-radon

Mgmny

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2017, 12:50:02 PM »
So... probably the unpopular opinion here, but my radon levels in the home we bought 2 years ago are "elevated" but not to the point the leading authorities recommend we do anything about it.

When looking into the risk of lung cancer from radon, it was tiny. Like, I'm not sure why anyone mitigates their radon based on the increased risk factor. I think you would need to inhale a TON of radon for it to be a significant risk factor, and i don't think those levels exist in your home.
This is an old article, but I just read this story yesterday, there is good reason to test for and mitigate levels of radon.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/radon-gas-suspected-in-prince-george-bc-family-tragedy-1.3266622
And here's an interesting breakdown of the actual risk by level
https://www.epa.gov/radon/health-risk-radon

The first article is an anecdote with no scientific data presented whatsoever.

The EPA website has a link to studies that say," They confirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies of underground minerís who breathed radon for a period of years."

Are you an underground miner breathing radon for a period of years???

Also, I've read other articles that say that the linear extrapolation of pCi/L that the EPA is erroneous, and the EPA admits it's erroneous, but uses it regardless. Please show me real DATA - not a website.


Frugal Lizard

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2017, 12:55:46 PM »
Thanks for all the input.  We are going to proceed with having some install the radon mitigation pipe.  It is going to be about $1500.  This includes some follow up test to ensure that it has worked and to make sure that it is not sucking the gas out of the earth beyond the basement.  We are not comfortable drilling into the slab or the side of the house ourselves. 

I sleep and work on the lower level of our house so my exposure is pretty high.  So for peace of mind, we are going to proceed and take our business to a local independent contractor.  And we will have documentation of the effectiveness when we sell or if we move to main level and rent out the basement for income in the future.

So for now, still sleeping with the windows open!  And it was pretty chilly last night.

KCM5

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2017, 01:12:57 PM »
So... probably the unpopular opinion here, but my radon levels in the home we bought 2 years ago are "elevated" but not to the point the leading authorities recommend we do anything about it.

When looking into the risk of lung cancer from radon, it was tiny. Like, I'm not sure why anyone mitigates their radon based on the increased risk factor. I think you would need to inhale a TON of radon for it to be a significant risk factor, and i don't think those levels exist in your home.
This is an old article, but I just read this story yesterday, there is good reason to test for and mitigate levels of radon.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/radon-gas-suspected-in-prince-george-bc-family-tragedy-1.3266622
And here's an interesting breakdown of the actual risk by level
https://www.epa.gov/radon/health-risk-radon

The first article is an anecdote with no scientific data presented whatsoever.

The EPA website has a link to studies that say," They confirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies of underground minerís who breathed radon for a period of years."

Are you an underground miner breathing radon for a period of years???

Also, I've read other articles that say that the linear extrapolation of pCi/L that the EPA is erroneous, and the EPA admits it's erroneous, but uses it regardless. Please show me real DATA - not a website.



Here's one (on the EPA website you were just quoting) regarding residential exposure. http://www.radonleaders.org/sites/default/files/Residential%20Radon%20Gas%20Exposure%20and%20Lung%20Cancer_Iowa%20Study.pdf

PoutineLover

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2017, 01:19:19 PM »

The first article is an anecdote with no scientific data presented whatsoever.

The EPA website has a link to studies that say," They confirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies of underground minerís who breathed radon for a period of years."

Are you an underground miner breathing radon for a period of years???

Also, I've read other articles that say that the linear extrapolation of pCi/L that the EPA is erroneous, and the EPA admits it's erroneous, but uses it regardless. Please show me real DATA - not a website.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC546066/
Better?
This kind of thing is very difficult to do super robust studies on, but when multiple countries put radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer, it's worth paying attention to. I'm not the kind of person who stops eating bacon because of that study about processed meats, but I do wear sunscreen. There's a certain level of prevention and mitigation that is worthwhile and has a high effect for a low cost, but past a certain point it's just not worth it. So I'd fix a house that had high levels of radon, but probably wouldn't bother if it was very close to the safe threshold.

Mgmny

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2017, 03:05:55 PM »

The first article is an anecdote with no scientific data presented whatsoever.

The EPA website has a link to studies that say," They confirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies of underground minerís who breathed radon for a period of years."

Are you an underground miner breathing radon for a period of years???

Also, I've read other articles that say that the linear extrapolation of pCi/L that the EPA is erroneous, and the EPA admits it's erroneous, but uses it regardless. Please show me real DATA - not a website.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC546066/
Better?
This kind of thing is very difficult to do super robust studies on, but when multiple countries put radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer, it's worth paying attention to. I'm not the kind of person who stops eating bacon because of that study about processed meats, but I do wear sunscreen. There's a certain level of prevention and mitigation that is worthwhile and has a high effect for a low cost, but past a certain point it's just not worth it. So I'd fix a house that had high levels of radon, but probably wouldn't bother if it was very close to the safe threshold.

I'm cool with that study. This is the important take-away:

"In the absence of other causes of death, the absolute risks of lung cancer by age 75 years at usual radon concentrations of 0, 100, and 400 Bq/m3 would be about 0.4%, 0.5%, and 0.7%, respectively, for lifelong non-smokers"

So,if you are living at 225 bq/m3 you have a 0.5-0.7% chance of lung cancer at 75 years old. Ok.... at 0 you have a 0.4% chance of dying from lung cancer, MEANING you only have a 0.1-0.3% chance of dying from radon at 75 years old if your levels are escalated. That is so small.

Mgmny

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2017, 03:08:20 PM »

MEANING you only have a 0.1-0.3% chance of dying from radon at 75 years old if your levels are escalated.


That is 0.001 for all you math majors.

Ottawa

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2017, 06:24:09 AM »
And...I'm done. 

I decided to forego the large drill bit in favour of using my hammer drill with a 5/16" bit.  It took 1 hour to outline my 3.5" circumference at a moderate angle away from the planned hole.  The angle was in order to make it easy to widen the hole if required and facilitate removal of material in the sump.  It turns out I had 4-6" of crushed limestone under the pad, as expected.  I removed several gallons of this stone to create  6" deep by 10" wide sump (airspace). 

I then cut and installed my system which goes through my workbench (pictures to come will demonstrate).  This made the work a little harder, but in the end gives great support for the system.  I decided not to weld the ABS in favour of using air-proof hvac tape.  This was to done to facilitate changing out the fan in the future and also in the event that troubleshooting is required.  You never know what the system will encounter with our harsh winters - i.e. freezing condensate etc. 

I then made a custom extension cord from 16 gauge electrical wire I have lying around to hard wire the fan.  I had to buy the 3 prong plug to wire up to the other end of my wire. 

Total cost of supplies in CAD (tax in):
Radon Away RP140 fan = $227.11
12' of 3" ABS pipe, 3 (4" - 3") reducers, 1 long sweep ABS elbow = $73.17
3 prong plug = $8.45

Sub total materials = $308.73

A little hvac tape, some window/door caulking, some expanding foam, all of which I already had.

I will also include other expenses separately.  These are expenses that you would need to add to the above materials cost.
Initial 3 month radon test = $57.75
Digital manometer = $60.99
Digital radon meter = $282.44

Sub total equipment = $401.18

Grand Total = $701.91

I consider the last two purchases as 'tools' and I will be loaning them out to two other people (so far) in our neighbourhood. 

The total time taken to complete the project was around 6 hours. 

Edit to add:
I should note that the running costs as follows include electricity usage only, not delivery/tax etc.
The fan is rated 15W - 21W - depending on the 'work' it has to do.  I would guess I'm on the lower end, but would need a kill-a-watt to actually determine. 
Based on the tiered rates in Ontario, and the cost throughout the year the costs are as follow:
@ 15Watt all year = $13.57
@ 21 Watt all year = $17.94
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 07:56:26 AM by Ottawa »

Ottawa

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2017, 06:05:05 AM »
I should note that the running costs as follows include electricity usage only, not delivery/tax etc.
The fan is rated 15W - 21W - depending on the 'work' it has to do.  I would guess I'm on the lower end, but would need a kill-a-watt to actually determine. 
Based on the tiered rates in Ontario, and the cost throughout the year the costs are as follow:
@ 15Watt all year = $13.57
@ 21 Watt all year = $17.94

A few new numbers following testing! 

The fan is running at 16.5W, so presumably it is not too taxed drawing air from under slab. Costs at this power consumption are around $15 per year.
My average radon level is now 32 bq/m3 - an 85% reduction.  Will report back after 3 months of testing.

Ottawa

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Re: Radon test is higher than Health Canada recommendation
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2018, 06:13:16 AM »
My long(er) term radon level is now at 10 bq/m3 - a 95% reduction.