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Radon is Here to Stay

By Steve Vacha


Radon is here to stay, literally.   The uranium dropped off by the glaciers millennia ago is buried deep in our soil.  As many of us who have been around awhile know, nothing in our environment stays the same for long.    Uranium after many thousands of years, changes to radium, and radium changes to radon gas.

The problem with radon gas is the alpha radiation that is emitted.  The alpha radiation emitted by radon is the same alpha radiation emitted by other alpha generating radiation sources such as plutonium.  That is why radon is considered a carcinogenic.

Initially one of the ways to test for radon was to direct air at a disc of plastic. When the alpha radiation contacted the disc, the plastic was literally damaged or marked.   The hits or markings, were then counted to determine the radon level of the area.   The higher the count the more radon gas was determined to be present.  If the radon radioactive particle can mark a piece of plastic, one must ask what does it do to our lungs as we breathe the air.

I became a believer of radon about 7 years ago when I did a radon test in rural Sarpy County.   The gentleman who asked for the test was the father of the buyer.  He said his neighbor built a home years ago and his two sons lived in the basement level of the home.   Neither of the sons smoked, and there was not a history of lung cancer in the family.    One of the boys developed lung cancer in his early 20’s.    They later tested for radon and found a very high level of radon.  Radon was considered a strong possible cause for the cancer.

The State of Nebraska has a licensing procedure for those who test and those who mitigate for radon.

Home inspectors were some of the first professionals to test for radon.   Inspectors who are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) agree not to complete repairs on items they find in a home inspection.  It could lead to a conflict of interest.   Some areas of the country do not allow those who test for radon to also do mitigation for radon, for fear of this conflict of interest.

It is also important to know those who test for radon follow procedures set up by the State.  Some of those procedures include:

  • Monitors must be sent to a lab for calibration once a year
  • Continuing education must be completed to maintain state license.
  • Duplicate tests must be done on a set schedule to make sure the monitors are in calibration
  • Records and tests must be sent into the State on a monthly basis and records kept

As I have been told in training, the science is not perfect in testing radon, but it is the best we currently have to protect our families and clients.


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