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Topic:   Radon measurement problem - 8077 visits (2 today, 15 this week)

steve stokes
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From:winston-salem, nc
Registered: Apr 2004

home inspection posted July 30, 2005 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for steve stokes   Click Here to Email steve stokes     Edit/Delete Message


Situation: closed vacant home; Past week temps 90+: HVAC turned off; Past two days-3" rain with heavy thunderstorms during testing; finished basement room is 90% humidity as well as main level.
Problem: elevated readings prior to mitigation as well as after,(low 20's pC/L), there is no communication below the slab but block wall suction is excellent.

It has been suggested that a small wattage light blub below the test unit will dry the air enough to stabilize the test unit.

thanks,
steve stokes

Any suggestions would welcome for this house from caturine hell. I have recommended to the agent that if the HVAC remains off and the humidity levels stay high that there may be a potential mold problem.

Jerry Peck
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From:Pembroke Pines, FL
Registered: Feb 2003

home inspection posted July 30, 2005 01:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Down here, 90 degrees at 90% RH would virtually guarantee mold and mildew growth all over everything.

------------------
Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Thomas
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From:Greensburg PA
Registered: Feb 2004

home inspection posted July 30, 2005 04:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Steve,

Need more info. What test device? Are you the mitigator? Are the block walls capped with a solid block?

High humidity is irrelevant to some devices but will void others. Forget the light bulb it's voodoo, just a slight air movement will eliminate any benefit.

------------------
Make it a great day!

Bruce Breedlove
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From:Pikes Peak Region
Registered: Mar 2003

home inspection posted July 30, 2005 05:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



That thunderstorm and all that rain could have affected the radon results (regardless of the device used). The radon levels inside the house may actually increase when the outside soil is wet because the radon takes the path of least resistance (into the house rather than through the wet soil).

Are you using activated charcoal canisters? If so humidity is a real concern. You might want to consider using E-PERMS. They are not affected by humidity. In fact, I use an E-PERM inside a jar with a water sample in it to measure radon in water.

------------------
Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Jack Feldmann
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From:Knoxville, TN
Registered: Mar 2001

home inspection posted August 04, 2005 04:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jack Feldmann   Click Here to Email Jack Feldmann     Edit/Delete Message


Bruce B., I have never tested for radon in water. Is your technique the EPA approved protocol? Just curious, and too lazy to go look it up.
JF

Bruce Thomas
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From:Greensburg PA
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home inspection posted August 04, 2005 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Jack,

There is only an interim radon in water protocol. They are having trouble deciding what the action level should be. 10,000 pCi/L in water = 1 pCi/L in air. So if you had 40,000 pCi/L in your water you COULD have 4 pCi/L in you bathroom when you take a shower on the second floor. It's all a bit hazy as to the standards but the test protocols and procedures are clear. The E-PERM folks have a good one and there are several other companies that have equipment that will do the job. Check the EPA site.


Bruce T.

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Bruce Breedlove
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From:Pikes Peak Region
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home inspection posted August 04, 2005 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



Jack,

Yes.

The procedure is actually very simple. You take a sample of water, place the open sample bottle inside a large glass jar along with the E-PERM, seal the lid and stand the jar up (spilling the water out of the sample bottle). Everything else is the same as a normal radon test except you use a different set of formulas.

------------------
Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Caoimhín P. Connell
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From:Bailey, CO
Registered: Jul 2005

home inspection posted August 06, 2005 08:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Caoimhín P. Connell   Click Here to Email Caoimhín P. Connell     Edit/Delete Message


Hi Gents –

I’m going to wade into this a little late.

First of all, Steve Stokes, two things: 1) The method that you are using to monitor “radon” has a sampling error associated with it that is HUGE! (And I mean REALLY huge). Each reading that you take with your three, five or seven day, etc, monitors has only a 10% probability of being close to the actual yearly average.

What this means is that with a precision error estimate (that is a coeficient of variation) of 0.9, the numbers are EXPECTED to be all over the board, and still be “acceptable.”

Here is an example. To demonstrate how REALLY bad the so-called radon monitors are, lets play a mind exercise:

In the magical town of Wagawaga, ALL of the houses are EXACTLY the same in EVERY respect. In fact, all of the families are clones, and they all live EXACTLY the same (taking showers at the same time, opening doors and window at exactly the same time, adjusting their heating and AC exactly the same way, etc). As it happens the yearly average “radon” concentration in each house is, say, 47 pCi/l. (For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to assume a Gaussian distribution in the daily variations, to make my life easier on this sunny Saturday morning).

Now, you have been hired to perform “radon” readings according to the EPA protocol with your three, five or seven day monitors.

Here are what the numbers may look like -

20 pCi/l
6 pCi/l
89 pCi/l
75 pCi/l
3 pCi/l
90 pCi/l
16 pCi/l
45 pCi/l
22 pCi/l
87 pCi/l
69 pCi/l
9 pCi/l
91 pCi/l
11 pCi/l
12 pCi/l
56 pCi/l
7 pCi/l
45 pCi/l
22 pCi/l
5 pCi/l

Believe it or not, each of these values are within the acceptable tolerances of the method – that is, THERE IS NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE between any of these numbers within the limitations of the method you are using.

Based on your method, an house with a yearly “radon” concentration of 47 pCi/l can give a reading of anywhere between 91 pCi/l and 2 pCi/l and still be correct. That is why it is common to see “radon” concentrations go UP after remediation – since the preremediation sample may have been at the low side, and the post remediation may have been at the high side, but not statistically different – unless you’re the confused home owner or HI who foolishly thinks that your “radon” monitoring result is actually representative of what the radon concentration is – (which it isn’t).

Now having said that. In truth, remember I said that the acceptable range is between 91 pCi/l and 2 pCi/l and still be correct? Well in reality, the range is really even LARGER since the daily variations are not Gaussian, but lognormal, making the coefficient of variation even larger (bigger error with each sample).

When the lab reports to you their error, they are reporting analytical error, not sampling error. The analytical error is typically 0.12 to 0.15 and this error has to be ADDED to the sampling error making the actual error even LARGER than before.

Sigh…

OK. Having said all that …
“It has been suggested that a small wattage light blub below the test unit will dry the air enough to stabilize the test unit.”

Forget it, the test unit could be as stable as a 20 ton pool table. The radon concentration fluctuates around the test unit; the testing unit does not fluctuate around the radon concentration.

Next – the relative humidity will GREATLY effect some (most) of the so-called “radon” monitors, partly explaining the huge error observed.

Next – the vadose zone water will fluctuate with rain fall, which will significantly effect the radon concentration in a home whose radon infiltration is via soil gas.

Next- the Henry’s constant of radon in water is HUGE (meaning that radon gas can me lost within thousands of a second from a water sample, biasing the results WAY low. There are very specialized ways to determine radon in water. However, it requires a little more patience and training and equipment. The method suggested by Bruce B. (if I understand it) would only loose about 70% to 80% of the radon in the water.

Next- Don't loose sight of the fact that your "radon" monitor ISN'T measuring radon. To my knowledge, there is not a single "radon" monitor available to HIs that actually measures radon. (Cool trick, huh?)

Now, those are just my thoughts on the matter. I think rain is wet, so what do I know, eh?

Cheers!
Caoimhín P. Connell
www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

Bruce Thomas
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From:Greensburg PA
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home inspection posted August 06, 2005 07:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Caoimhín
You have brought up several interesting points but have not explained any of them.

"Each reading that you take with your three, five or seven day, etc, monitors has only a 10% probability of being close to the actual yearly average. " Why does EPA All of the states AARST and everyone that I know of endorse short term screening tests and how do you arrive at "10% probability"

"Gaussian distribution " Please define.
How did you arrive at such broadly diverse numbers for your hypothetical village.

" Next- Don't loose sight of the fact that your "radon" monitor ISN'T measuring radon. To my knowledge, there is not a single "radon" monitor available to HIs that actually measures radon"

Is there a radon gas monitor. To my knowledge the most feasible way to measure the gas is to measure it's effects or products. I use E-PERMS, which measure negative ions (by-products) and Niton Rad 7's which measure the electron volts of alpha particles and can differentiate between radon and thorn and screen out thoron.

"The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion"
I take my profession very personally and my professional opinion always reflects my personal opinion, the two can't be separated in my opinion.

In the end the intent of a radon test is to screen for potential high levels and protect the public. If we all had a Ph.D. in physics and $50,000 worth of equipment would the results be more accurate and precise, yes but the cost of a test would be $1,000 and nobody would be ordering any.

It's dangerous to confuse the people in the front line who understand the protocols and explain them to the public every day. If you would care to change the way we do business I can recommend that you go to www.aarst.org we are always looking for folks who are willing to lend us their time and expertise in rewriting steak holders versions of the protocols. Your input would be welcome.

Bruce

------------------
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Bruce Breedlove
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From:Pikes Peak Region
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home inspection posted August 07, 2005 08:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



Mr. Connell,

If we are all following the same protocols and the results are repeatable doesn't that lend some legitimacy to radon testing?

------------------
Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Jerry Peck
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From:Pembroke Pines, FL
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home inspection posted August 07, 2005 08:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Bruce,

"Mr. Connell"?

You mean Ms. or Mrs. Connell. Did you read any of the linked stuff?

------------------
Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Breedlove
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From:Pikes Peak Region
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home inspection posted August 07, 2005 09:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



Thanks, Jerry. My mistake. I made an assumption of gender of an unfamiliar name.

Her site looks very interesting. I'll check it out a little more later.

------------------
Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Caoimhín P. Connell
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Posts: 12
From:Bailey, CO
Registered: Jul 2005

home inspection posted August 08, 2005 06:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Caoimhín P. Connell   Click Here to Email Caoimhín P. Connell     Edit/Delete Message


Hello Two Bruces-

First Bruce Thomas:

The protocol you use to determine “radon” was never designed to actually measure radon in a house with any particular degree of certainty. That is, the protocol you use was actually designed for very different data quality objectives. It was originally established when virtually nothing wan known about the residential concentrations of radon in homes, and many researchers were looking into the issue. To ensure that a standard protocol was used by all researchers measuring radon, the method was developed so that the values would have a better chance of being put into the same data base- then with thousands and thousands of data mere seasonal variations, house-to-house variations, daily variations, handling errors, analysis errors, product variations, etc, all dissipate due to the very large number of data.

As commercial folks got involved in selling radon measurements, the EPA saw no need to develop a new protocol, and their protocol, based on very different data quality objectives, simply became the norm – not because it was good for your data quality objectives (determining the radon concentration in a single house), but because it was there.

As an home inspector, you are not collecting thousands of data, you are not statistically analyzing those data and your single datum (or maybe two samples or maybe three for that house) is all you have – as such you, incur all of the unknowns (errors) associated with that sample.

The uncertainties were determined and presented in a paper (Mose, Douglas, G. et al "Realistic Uncertainties for Charcoal and Alpha-Track Monitors" Given at the 1988 USEPA Symposium on Radon and Radon Reduction Technology, Denver, Colorado).

"Gaussian distribution " Please define.
All parameter data of similar observations tend to show patterns. For example, if I set out to find the average weight of a 35 year old American Home Inspector, and I randomly gather up (sample) 20 men from each state and measure their weight, I will find that the variation of the weights lies symmetrically about the “average” value. That is, there will be roughly as many men at a given fraction of the average weight as there will be at the inverse of that fraction over the weight. (I have plotted the weight of HIs as a graph and put the graph at www.forensic-applications.com/radon/HIsweight.jpg); as you can see the deviation about the average (the bold centre line is symmetrical). Also as you can see, the weight of 95% of all HIs will lie between two fairly well defined weights. For the purposes of this brief discussion, this is the Upper Confidence Limit and the Lower Confidence Limit (UCL95 and LCL95). These are the two limits that I used when calculating the spread of values I presented in the first part of this discussion. That is for identical homes in the magical town of Wagawaga where the yearly average concentration of radon is 47 pCi/l, and we put one “radon” monitor in each home, 95% of all readings will be between 91 pCi/l and 2 pCi/l.
For the purposes of my numbers, I presumed that the daily, seasonal, hourly (etc) variations in the homes were Gaussian – however, they are not. Some data display a very different pattern. – Let’s say I wanted to find the average number of pages in a book in a large library. What I would find is that the vast majority of books contain a hundred or so pages with a small but significant number containing THOUSANDS of pages. If I plot this out, I see that the high values seriously skew the shape of the curve which lies asymmetrically about the average. But, if I look at the log of each datum, I see that the log of the number of pages is Gaussian – this means the data exhibit a lognormal distribution about the mean. Such is the case with radon concentrations – they are heavily skewed, and their distribution about the mean is lognormal.

For an example of a lognormal curve, see my discussion on indoor mould spore monitoring at www.forensic-applications.com/moulds/mvue.html

When I calculated the UCL95 and LCL95 I actually used two one-sided Student’s T tests and presumed a Gaussian distribution. Even I don’t like math. Can you figure out why I selected such an odd-ball number of 47 pCi/l and no something easier like 50? Why did I select 47?

“Is there a radon gas monitor. To my knowledge the most feasible way to measure the gas is to measure it's effects or products. I use E-PERMS, which measure negative ions (by-products) and Niton Rad 7's which measure the electron volts of alpha particles and can differentiate between radon and thorn and screen out thoron.”

First of all let’s remember that the whole mess about risk of cancer doesn’t even have to do with radon! Radon is PERFECTLY harmless, inert gas which a human could breath an atmosphere of some 80% radon, 20% oxygen with a bit of CO2 thrown in for blood pH balance. The whole cancer risk mess centres on entities known as the SLRDs (short lived radon daughters) and radon emissions. Therefore, you could EASILY have an house WITH ABSOLUTELY NO RISK OF CANCER FROM SLRDs, and still have an high radon reading, based on EPA methods and “radon” measuring toys. In other words, based on your VERY high readings, you could recommend mitigating an house that has no radon risk – because the risk comes from SLRDs, and your methods are based on radon SLRDs that are actually falsely created in the chambers of the E-Perm. (By the way, I like E-Perms but E-Perms don’t measure “negative ions” as you assume – E-Perms measure the dissipation of a static charge between two plates – PRESUMED to have been caused by ion pairs as a result of radio active decay PRESUMED to be due exclusively to radon – however, as HIs in high elevations will tell you there can be huge discrepancies between E-Perms and other methods especially following a solar flare … can you guess why? My radon page answers most of your questions on this issue: www.forensic-applications.com/radon/radon.html

There are no radon monitors available to HIs, nor should their be since the risk models are not based on radon anyway, they are based on working level months and PAECs (see my radon page).

Regarding my disclaimer – I entirely disagree with you that one’s personal opinion and professional opinion cannot be separated – if this was the case, we could have no objective judges. I know that as a police officer, when I don my uniform, I strip off all my personal opinions, and prejudices and represent the law, whether I agree with it or not; sometimes my enforcement actions are entirely against my personal opinions.

For the purposes of these postings, I place the disclaimer there since I have to testify and these postings could be used against me, especially where I play the devil’s advocate, or use one-sided arguments or redutio ad absurdum arguments that I don’t necessarily hold in order to demonstrate a point. These postings are similar to the fun and stimulating conversations I might have with you in a kitchen at a party – they do not have the benefit of peer review, are not work products, and do not always represent what I think – some times in these postings I will intentionally throw a fly in the ointment just to see if anyone catches it.

“If the end the intent of a radon test is to screen for potential high levels and protect the public. “

In the end – you don’t do that. That is the problem. The risk models are based on PAEC and WLM they are NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT based on radon! And your measurements do NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT speak to the issue of risk (however large or small) - in fact, your data don't even have high confidence in speaking to the issue of radon concentrations.

It's dangerous to confuse the people in the front line who understand the protocols and explain them to the public every day.

It was dangerous to provide risk information to the American Public without the benefit of perspective. Thanks for the opportunity to provide input BUT – it won’t work – As a member of the EPA once said “Sure it’s bad science, but it makes good policy.” I’m done trying to fight such a mentality, because in my opinion, it is neither.


Bruce Breedlove-
“If we are all following the same protocols and the results are repeatable doesn't that lend some legitimacy to radon testing?”

Excellent question – answer “Yes” If, and only IF, you were actually pooling your data and drawing your conclusions from the combined data where in you are all using EXACTLY the same protocols – which you aren’t.

Anyway, just food for thought.

Cheers,

Mr. Caoimhín P. Connell
(I am a man, and there is no feminine version to my name).
Forensic Industrial Hygienist
www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

Caoimhín P. Connell
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From:Bailey, CO
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home inspection posted August 08, 2005 07:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Caoimhín P. Connell   Click Here to Email Caoimhín P. Connell     Edit/Delete Message


By the way, the above link to the graph doesn't work since this boards translator included the paranthesis and the semicolon as part of the URL. Here is the graph:
http://www.forensic-applications.com/radon/HIsweight.jpg

Cheers
Caoimhín

Jack Feldmann
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home inspection posted August 08, 2005 08:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jack Feldmann   Click Here to Email Jack Feldmann     Edit/Delete Message


Mr. Connell,
While I have to admit I did not read your entire post(s), I did get your point I believe.

I am a little confused though. I visited your web site and just scrolling down, it appears you did some work regarding radon ( Conducted radon gas endangerment study for the German Government in Grafenwoehr, Germany.).

I also did not read the entire document, but looking it over quickly, it looks a lot like the manual from my classes for radon measurement training prior to taking the EPA test.

You may have your opinions about radon, and the scam that many of us are pulling on customers by providing worthless testing according to EPA protocols.

The EPA has protocols for testing, and testing in place to ensure that we know enough about radon to conduct the testing. I'm using continuous monitors that I have calibrated every year (probably another worthless scam). As long as the EPA has protocols in place, I'm going to keep collecting money form the unknowing fools that believe that radon is a potential health risk.

By the way, I also spent many hours on training, testing, and continuing education in the asbestos field. I was foolish enough to believe the EPA once again and follow their guidelines. You haven't mentioned it yet, but you might also feel that asbestos is also a bogus health risk claim.

Thanks for posting your blog on radon, it sounds a lot like talking to some of the nuclear people that work at the Oak Ridge National Lab. Their conversations usually ramp up a bit when they start using those $18 words and terms that only someone in the next cubicle would understand.

Us plain folk have another expression: "If you can't dazzle them with facts, then baffle them with bullshit". I wasn't dazzled by your "facts".
JF

I will however stop testing right away as soon and the monitor company tells me their product is worthless, and the EPA tells me that I'm wasting my time and stealing money when I charge for a radon test. Until then, I guess I just have to view your opinions as "crackpot". With all due respect.

Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 08, 2005 08:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


"
Mr. Caoimhín P. Connell
(I am a man, and there is no feminine version to my name).
"

I took this (from the link) "Incorporated in 2003, FACTs, Inc. is woman-owned consulting firm providing state-of-the-art forensic applications of industrial hygiene." and made the assumption that was you.

My apologies.

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Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Breedlove
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home inspection posted August 08, 2005 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



I'm glad we got that straight.

------------------
Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Caoimhín P. Connell
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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 05:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Caoimhín P. Connell   Click Here to Email Caoimhín P. Connell     Edit/Delete Message


Hello Mr. Feldmann:

I’m sorry that you entirely and completely misunderstood everything you read. I’m not quite sure how you could have interpreted my postings so completely incorrectly. (Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that you admit that you didn’t bother to read the whole discussion… eh?)

Good luck!
Caoimhín P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

Bruce Thomas
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From:Greensburg PA
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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 08:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Caoimhín

You make several points and it was interesting to read them. There is just one thing I can’t get past.
The EPA, AARST American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, The National Academy of Scientists, The American Cancer Society, The American Lung Association, The University or Iowa, The University of Minnesota, and all of the BIER studies disagree with you in part or as a whole.

The point is if it weren't for radon the inert harmless gas the harmful progeny couldn't get from the rock into our living space. So what's the big deal if we call it Radon, polonium, bismuth or lead. The decay chain is radio active and harmful and I don't want any of them in my house. So I install the system to suck the carrier out and the rest of them go with it.

As far as measuring the gas, everyone knows or should know what each device is measuring. In each case each measurement can be mathematically reduced and brought back to the quantity of radon described in pCi/L the quantity of it's radio activity (but you knew that).

The bottom line is we are just trying to make a living. Doing things by the book as we know it and complying with all of the requirements. As I said in my previous post if you want to participate in meaningful change then join the big dogs in the hunt and serve on a stake holders committee to rewrite the protocols or you could sit on the porch and yip by writing posts to a bulletin board.

Bruce

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Jeff Beck
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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 08:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jeff Beck   Click Here to Email Jeff Beck     Edit/Delete Message


I read Mr. Connell’s Radon page and found it to be very interesting. I do not currently inspect for Radon but have been investigating adding this service.

Aside from some possible EPA bashing, Mr. Connell seems to make some very valid points. I’m neither a statistician nor a scientist so some of his methods of substantiating his premises are lost on me. Whether we test for alpha tracks, e-perms or flies in the ointment seems to be somewhat irrelevant. The point that we all seem to be missing is: Does whatever you want to call what we do now as testing (Radon, SLRS or Radon Progeny) have any long term effect ON REDUCING THE OCCURANCE OF LUNG CANCER in the occupants of the homes that we inspect ?

It would seem to me that having some method of knowing that, as an industry (and a country), we are making progress in reducing the risk of cancer IS the primary issue here.

My customers don’t care how much voltage is in a faulty wire, they only want me to tell them that they can get shocked and how to have the hazard removed (i.e. call a licensed electrician).

It seems to me that the worse case scenario is we may have some homes that have Radon remediation systems that aren’t necessary or are overkill. If on the other hand, there are instances of testing which do not reveal a cancer risk then I think that’s another different story entirely, but I don’t get that sense from Mr. Connell’s page.

If I have a complaint about Mr. Connell’s post he seems to be saying everything we are doing has little or no basis in fact (beginning with the EPA’s measurement protocol and extending to the measurement equipment industry) but doesn’t provide any direction for a solution, or am I missing something?

Respectfully,

Jeff Beck

Bruce Thomas
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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 09:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Jeff,

Excelently put and I couldn't agree more!

Bruce T

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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 12:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



No matter how precise and accurate our radon measurement devices may be we are still only measuring the potential for health risk due prolong exposure to radon decay products. Radon levels (and radon decay product levels) fluctuate hourly, daily, monthly and seasonally.

Our short-terms tests (typically 48 hours) measure the radon (or radon decay product) levels present during the measurement period. Measure the same house another time and you will likely get different results due to the natural fluctuations.

The best way to determine the actual average radon (or radon decay product) levels in a home is to conduct a long-term measurement (31 days to one year). In real estate transactions the timeframe for inspections is tight hence the short-term radon (or radon decay product) test.

Is the short-term test perfect? No. But it is a good indicator for the potential health risk from exposure to radon decay products.

I am satisfied that as long as I follow protocol and keep my instruments properly calibrated that I am providing my clients a valuable service.

Don't forget that long-term exposure to elevated levels of radon decay products is the second leading cause of lung cancer (behind smoking). Measurement and mitigation are inexpensive and effective. I wish the other known carcinogens were as easy to measure and remove.

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Bruce Breedlove
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Colorado Springs, CO

Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 01:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


First, I do not check radon, nor have I ever been through the courses to get certified as a Radon Technician (but I almost did - then decided against it).

Now, what I do not understand is, and everyone seems to be in agreement on this, with radon levels knowingly varying up and down over time, time of day, daily, weekly, yearly, during rains, etc., how can one get a 'good' measurement and rely on that, or get a 'bad' measurement and rely on that?

Knowing that those measurements are 'not correct' and that those measurements 'will be different the next time I check them'.

If that is the case, and if the other things Bruce says are correct, then why not just install mitigation system in EVERY house in that area? Because, as you already know, the test is not truly representative of what really goes on, it just represents that one 'very short time period'.

My brain is hurting from all of this 'I-know-it-varies-but-I-also-trust-the-readings-I-know-will-be-different-the-next-time-they-are-checked'. Even a stopped clock is correct twice each day.

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Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Thomas
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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 03:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Jerry,

That question deserves as clear an answer as possible. Radon is a soil gas that enters the home though stack effect. When warm air rises and exits the home is puts a vacuum on the lowest level. In my area it's the basement. The vacuum has to be filled by leaks in the structure with fresh air or through cracks and gaps in the basement floor. If it's the floor then soil gas is drawn in. The soil gas contains radon.

There are a great many factors that determine whether or not you will have a radon problem. Home construction, soil conditions and geology, weather must be within perimeters during the test and several more that I'll address if you ask me too.

A "normal" radon test, if you plot it on an hourly basis would look like a sine wave with 4 peaks and 4 valleys over the 48 hours. That's why we take the average over the test period. I've tested several homes and gotten very consistent results time and again. Now consistent is within about 10% of each other.

Now the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L is based on a year long average under normal living conditions. That's why the Consumers Guide to Radon suggests that if you have a short term test between 4 pCi/L and 10 pCi/L you should do a year long test to prove your have a need to mitigate. The buyer's and Sellers Guide to radon doesn't mention that.

Sorry this is so long but the bottom line is that if you follow the protocols and guidelines you have a reasonable certainty that your results are repeatable within certain error limits.

Hope that helps.

Bruce Thomas

PS Where is Pembrook?

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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 03:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Pembroke Pines is west of Hollywood.

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Jerry Peck
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Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


"A "normal" radon test, if you plot it on an hourly basis would look like a sine wave with 4 peaks and 4 valleys over the 48 hours. That's why we take the average over the test period. I've tested several homes and gotten very consistent results time and again. Now consistent is within about 10% of each other."

How about day-to-day, week-to-week and seasonal variations?

What if you are there during a dry season and get "acceptable" levels, then what happens to those "acceptable levels" during the wet season?

You can see what I am asking and why. and What Caoimhín Connell was referring to.

You test at the "wrong time" and get a high reading, leading to mitigation, some one else tests at "an even worse time" and gets an even higher reading, AFTER the mitigation.

Or, you test at a "good time" and get an "acceptable reading, then the house does not sell, another buyer has the radon re-tested, and the new test is during a "bad time", making your readings look foolish.

Whom is to be believed - both?, neither?

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Jerry Peck
South Florida

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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 06:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jack Feldmann   Click Here to Email Jack Feldmann     Edit/Delete Message


Do carbon monoxide readings vary with weather conditions, or other circumstances?

How about those mositure stains on the roof sheathing. Are they ever dry at times and wet in other?

Even water pressure can change during the day.

Bruce Breedlove
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home inspection posted August 09, 2005 11:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message


Jerry,

That is a very good question and I will try to give you a good answer.

Typically in a real estate transaction time is of the essence. The objection deadline is usually only days away when we are contacted to do the home inspection. If a radon (or radon decay products) test is ordered we have the same deadline. I have never heard of an objection period of 31 days much less one year (the measurement period for a long-term test).

So, we are left with conducting a short-term test (48 hours to 30 days) to satisfy the time constraints of the transaction. We do the best we can under those conditions.

A short-term test is better than no test but not nearly as good as a long-term test. The short-term test is a measurement of the potential radon (or radon decay products) level. I always inform my clients that a long-term test will provide a more accurate assessment of the actual radon (or radon decay products) level and is a more realistic measurement as closed-house conditions are not required for the long-term test.

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Bruce Breedlove
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Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 10, 2005 06:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Bruce,

I thank you for trying to come up with a good answer, however, if a test is not accurate, why then is "A short-term test is better than no test"?

"Typically in a real estate transaction time is of the essence." is not a good answer, nor even a good reason. It is an excuse, yes, but does not answer the questions raised.

*IF* radon levels vary over time - hour by hour, day by day, week by week, seasonal, etc., and the apparent answer to that "if" is that radon levels DO vary over time.

Now, assuming the answer to the above IS that radon levels do vary over time, then doing a poor test (a test which is inadequate is a poor test) is not better than doing no test at all.

That's like saying: "Okay, I know they really need a home inspection, but you've only got 10 minutes to to it." The HI responds: "10 Minutes? Well, okay, it is better than nothing, and I still get to charge for it. Sure, I guess it's better than nothing."

The difference between checking for radon and that 10 minute HI is that the radon test could give a false 'not a problem' result, whereas the 10 minute HI gives 'Well, I only had 10 minutes and this is what I found which needs to be addressed, probably a lot more.' (Of course, if the person doing the 10 minute HI said 'Well, I didn't see anything wrong.', then that would be the same as the radon report saying 'I didn't find anything either.')

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Jerry Peck
South Florida

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home inspection posted August 10, 2005 03:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Knauff   Click Here to Email Bob Knauff     Edit/Delete Message


Let me take a stab at this. I think I see where Jerry is coming from.

Let me preface this with the fact that the state I live in has been deemed one of the highest for potential elevated levels of radon in buildings and to compound that problem almost everyone has a basement in their home in this environment AND keeps the house tightly buttoned up for many months out of the year due to the climate.

The question “is radon a health hazard?” has finally recently been positively answered by long term (30 year plus) studies conducted in Europe and Canada and the U. S. (to name the big ones) by all sorts of governmental and scientific agencies including the World Health Organization with its 50 member countries and that answer is a resounding “YES”! Any amount of the radiation is a health hazard to humans. .0001 would pose a health risk just as 98.0 would, just to a lesser degree. We cannot dispute these facts…at least I can’t!

Given that, testing for radon cannot by its very nature be an exact science. Not unlike the building codes trying to be everything to every body, radon measurement standards must account for different soils, building techniques, weather, climate, styles of dwellings, etc. and that variable list could be infinite including the variable of how resistant a person is genetically to getting cancer. Ever see one of those old farts smoking like a chimney and still quite alive while your 35 year old cousin just died of lung cancer from smoking?! What to do? At least come up with some basic, standardized (as best that can be) protocols that will attempt to give a reading considering every variable out there. No small task.

So the entire world came up with their magic number at which point they recommend the radon problem be mitigated (Mitigated - Adjective: Made less sever or intense. It can never realistically be driven away completely because the outside air contains the stuff too). That number in the U.S. is 4.0 pCi/L. A reading over that number and the EPA “recommends” (does not demand or require) fixing the problem or retesting to be sure the original test was accurate. After all, the family dog may have peed on the tester and skewed the results and no one knows about it or the seller may have set up a fan to blow on the tester in an attempt to make the results lower so he can sell the place. Under the 4.0 number and the decision to do something about it or not is left up to the individuals tolerance for pain (figuratively speaking). Remember NONE of it is good for us humans. Some people scoff at a reading of 8.0 while others must have it mitigated with a reading over 2.0. This from personal experience testing in the field.

Enter another variable that is slowly being narrowed too, the type of tester. That is a separate issue and open to discussion in its own rite but that issue is quickly being narrowed.

Here are the facts: Radon IS a health issue. Countries all over the world have determined this, not just the U.S government or the big drug companies here. The testing system as yet is not perfect and probably never will be. In a home sale a test must be done relatively quickly and so the 48 hour time constraint, along with some other requirements, have been adopted to at least give every individual involved in the deal some sense of whether there is a relatively large amount of a radon problem or a little radon problem. Any test is really better than no test BECAUSE no radon is good for us and at least we can get a peak at the potential danger that lurks there and it WILL be there since it is never NOT there. Longer term testing methods have been developed and could be used for more accurate readings but the EPA defines short term as less than 90 days and so long term is 91+ days. Far too long for real estate deals. Ya gotta draw the line somewhere.

As with anything, as time goes by and brighter minds than mine continue to work on the radon protocols and testing procedures they will become more succinct and hopefully more accurate but for now, testing for the stuff with the tools and knowledge we have is very important and not to be taken lightly. Hey, the building codes started somewhere too and look at them today and they are continuously in a state of ebb and flow of change as new information comes to light. So it is with this radon business.

There ya’ll go. Hack it apart, agree or not, but don’t ignore the problem. Help figure a way to make testing and protocols more efficient and accurate if you can. Educate yourself about it in your local area so you can talk about it intelligently with clients or at least don’t have to look like a stumble bum when the client knows more than you do about the subject. It can only benefit us all.

Whew…I need a Tanqurey and tonic!

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Bob

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home inspection posted August 10, 2005 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


I'll try to reduce the question down even further.

I'll use the sample number from above, except that I will number them.

Now, you have been hired to perform “radon” readings according to the EPA protocol with your three, five or seven day monitors.

Here are what the numbers may look like -

01 - 20 pCi/l
02 - 6 pCi/l
03 - 89 pCi/l
04 - 75 pCi/l
05 - 3 pCi/l
06 - 90 pCi/l
07 - 16 pCi/l
08 - 45 pCi/l
09 - 22 pCi/l
10 - 87 pCi/l
11 - 69 pCi/l
12 - 9 pCi/l
13 - 91 pCi/l
14 - 11 pCi/l
15 - 12 pCi/l
16 - 56 pCi/l
17 - 7 pCi/l
18 - 45 pCi/l
19 - 22 pCi/l
20 - 5 pCi/l

Now, let's say your test was performed at the time reading number 05 was taken - no problem, right?

Now, let's say the deal fell through and another radon test was taken for another buyer and they took it at the time of reading number 13.

Sheet is going to hit the fan, because the first reading was only 3.

So you (or them) go back out and this time you get reading number 02, okay slight problem, but it was not the same as either previous reading, so someone goes bonkers and says, 'look test it again, *I* *NEED* to know what it is'. So you go back out there and test it again, this time getting reading number 04.

Crapola, they say, what is wrong with your friggin test equipment? What is the REAL reading, *I* *NEED* to know, so I know what to do ... so you test it ONE MORE TIME .. and get reading number 17.

Which is reading is the correct reading?

All of them?

None of them?

Whichever one you get as long as no one comes behind you

Say you got reading number 05 and left it at that.

Would that be any safer, or less safe, than if you got reading number 18 and did nothing?

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Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Thomas
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home inspection posted August 10, 2005 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


First
Bob, excellent job!

Jerry,

Those numbers are bogus. I've tested the same property several different times over different seasons and conditions and the level has not changed by more than 10%. I've done that several times. I test my own home regularly it's a consistent 1.5 to 2 pCi/L.

When we get a 4.? pCi/L the seller says retest the buyer says mitigate. So we retest sometimes and the level is 4.? pCi/L. So do a year long test and you get a reading that you can hang you hat on.

Radon and the surrounding issues can be very complicated or understandable depending on who is in the conversation. I try to take a complicated issue and make it understandable.

Bob, also keep in mind that 4 pCi/L is the economically feasible level, where it doesn't make sense to spend money to reduce the risk any further.

Bruce

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home inspection posted August 10, 2005 07:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Knauff   Click Here to Email Bob Knauff     Edit/Delete Message


Thanks Bruce, your compliment means a lot!

Jerry,

The last test I did on Aug. 7th was a 48 hour test using a monitor that gives hourly readings and an average of all those hours at the end. The highest hour was #3 at 7.5 and the lowest hour was #43 at 1.0. In between were all kinds of fluctuations ranging in the 2.0 to 5.0 range because the stuff was drawn in at differing rates for one reason or another at different times of day or night. The ending average after 47 hours and 50 munutes was 2.9. If the next guy tested the same place in a week, the HOURLY numbers may be quite different, based on a myriad of factors, but the OVERALL averages most likely will not be much different at all.

To have a final reading of 3.0 one time and the next testing period it's 20.0 is not very likely or one of the tests is skewed for some reason.

This testing level of detail is the biggest reason I choose to use a very expensive continuous radon monitor (CRM) instead of a charcoal cannister from Home Depot, for instance, that a home owner would most likely use.

Hourly differences in reading can be quite dramatic but the average had better be pretty close to the same, test after test, or something is very wrong. Either the tester is not set properly or the device has been tampered with or the environment has not been properly controled for the test period.

Protocols are quite specific about real estate testing when NOT using a CRM. Method one, Sequential Testing, uses one short term test followed by a second short term test (with all kinds of requirements for placement, etc.)and the 2 tests are then averaged. If both are greater than 4.0, mitigation recommended, if less than that, up to you. It is EXPECTED that each tester will give a different reading because of normal variation of radon, barometric pressure, rain, age of test unit, mfg. of test unit and so on. If one is greater than 4.0 and one is less than 4.0 and the higher one is less than twice the lower one, use of the results is acceptable. If both testers are above 4.0 a 36% relative difference or less is acceptable and the results can be used. If both testers are below 4.0 a 67% relative difference is acceptable. And so on and so on.

Option 2: Use two testing devices at the same time. Average of both tests > 4.0 = mitigate. Less, mitigate if ya want.

So you see the testing issue is very involved and they have thought long and hard about it all and come up with some pretty strict guidelines to try to keep it all as accurate as possible.

All this just scratches the surface and is exactly why I cannot recommend highly enough that anyone delving into the radon measurement or mitigatin field get proper training.

Convinced yet?

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Bob

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home inspection posted August 10, 2005 08:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Leigh Goodman     Edit/Delete Message


Thank you for a wonderfully useful discussion. I have been conflicted about this
subject-HI's offering radon testing-since my first "sale" of a radon test.

The client wanted it very much, even more than she wanted the home inspection. So I looked into it, presuming I was performing a service for the client.

The first thing that made me uneasy was the way it was touted as a moneymaker even as I was trying to determine its efficacy.

But this great thread has put a lot of perspective to what had only been a vague feeling that I was selling undercoating.

I couldn't have learned this in college.
Thanks again

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home inspection posted August 10, 2005 08:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Bob and Bruce,

Thank you for your fine comments, which differ from Caoimhín Connell's.

When I was considering radon, back around 1991-92, the cost and hours of training to become a Certified Technician (which only basically allowed one to place the testing equipment, cannisters, what not, and you had to be Certified "under" a Certified EPA lab.

When I did a cost benefit analysis on me providing radon testing, considering there would be two trips, with limited testing (down here), limited cost I could charge, initial cost for training and annual re-certifications, I calculated that I would have to do many more radon tests than I would ever have time for, and that was for me to basically break even.

As I stood on the circle of the growth of radon testing, I watched it peak early, and watched many of my fellow local inspectors who did go the radon training route stop their re-certification renewals, and the EPA Certified lab go out of business, I knew I made the right decision.

Radon has never been big down here, and a better way to define it would be to say it never even made it to being small either.

I remember one house the inspector tested for radon came back with very high reading, and we never get high reading down here (not that high, a little high in a very few areas), so it was determined to do a re-test. The re-test came back as acceptable.

After discussing this around for a while, we helped the inspector start trying to figure out what was different.

Well, the first time, the seller was there, the second time the seller was not there.

Okay, what was there the first time which was not there the second time ... ?

Then the inspector says, as the light comes on, 'The seller had a rock collection. That rock collection was not there the second time.'

Poor seller is carrying around a very high level of radon with her wherever she goes, in her rock collection.

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Jerry Peck
South Florida

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home inspection posted August 10, 2005 10:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



Bob,

That was an excellent reply. You are knowledgeable on the subject and your input is appreciated.

I misstated something that you stated correctly -- long-term tests are 91 days to one year (not 31 days). My mistake.

Jerry,

The rock collection would have made a negligible contribution, if any, to the radon in the house. Yes, rock can and does emit radon. But unless the rock was loaded with uranium (the genesis of radium and radon and the other elements along the decay chain) or unless there was a train load of rock in the house the radon contribution from the rock collection would be insignificant.

So don't worry about those granite countertops or that stone fireplace surround. Or that rock collection. You will probably get more radon in the house from the ambient radon in the outside air.

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Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 06:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Bruce,

"The rock collection would have made a negligible contribution, if any, to the radon in the house."

Okay, that sets us back a couple of posts, back to where radon reading vary, but no, they don't, "Those numbers are bogus.".

You were starting to convince me that radon does not fluctuate, even thought everyone said it did:

"That thunderstorm and all that rain could have affected the radon results (regardless of the device used). The radon levels inside the house may actually increase when the outside soil is wet because the radon takes the path of least resistance (into the house rather than through the wet soil)."

"No matter how precise and accurate our radon measurement devices may be we are still only measuring the potential for health risk due prolong exposure to radon decay products. Radon levels (and radon decay product levels) fluctuate hourly, daily, monthly and seasonally."

"I've tested the same property several different times over different seasons and conditions and the level has not changed by more than 10%. I've done that several times. I test my own home regularly it's a consistent 1.5 to 2 pCi/L."

Okay - back to square one (the first post in this thread), DO, or DO NOT, radon vary in levels?

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Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Thomas
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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 07:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Bob

"If both testers are above 4.0 a 36% relative difference or less is acceptable and the results can be used. If both testers are below 4.0 a 67% relative difference is acceptable. And so on and so on. " Please tell me where you came by these figures. It's my understanding that 25% RDP or COV or less for a side by side test is acceptable.

All,

Don't get too caught up in just 1 of the many factors and variables for acceptable test procedure. Each one of them and all of them affect precision.

One time in 16 years of testing we got a result of 80 pCi/L The sharp daughter asked if rocks could affect the test. We said yes but it's extremely rare. After further discussion it came out that her 80 year old father had interest in a uranium mine. He had take the beautiful green ore and made a coffee table out of it. We got it out of the house, aired it out, waited a few days and retested. It was still a 40.

2 points here a coffee table sized chunk and several boxes of ore samples raised the level 40 pCi/L and the guy was 80 having lived in the home 30 of so years. A different person may have only lasted 5.

My 93 year old farmer great grand father ate 2 eggs and bacon cooked in lard every day of his long life. But he worked hard every day of his life. A different person may have died of heart decease.

It's all about risk reduction, it's not black and white. It isn't easy but ALL of the variables have to be kept under control as much as possible.

Bruce

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[This message has been edited by Bruce Thomas (edited August 11, 2005).]

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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 07:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Knauff   Click Here to Email Bob Knauff     Edit/Delete Message


Very busy today so just have time for a quick comment. Jerry hit on a good point. If radon is not expected to be a problem in your area it makes no sense (except for the love of your brother type stuff) to try to spend the dough to get certified and keep up the CEU's and such for measurement and/or mitigation. Do not test for radon then. My state has potentialy high levels so it is a good business move for me to invest in what it takes to do this, I believe.

Jerry, what exactly did you mean by, "Okay - back to square one (the first post in this thread), DO, or DO NOT, radon vary in levels?"

What are "levels".

Also by now I hope folks can see that placing a light bulb under a tester is an old wives tale and certainly not part of any proper protocols. All radon measurement and mitigation protocols are available from the EPA. As with building codes, it pays to get it straight from the horses mouth and not always believe what your hear.


Bruce, you posted just as I did so I didn't read your soon enough. I'll answer your question a bit later.
------------------
Bob

Think Safety!

www.BeaconHomeInspections.com

Proudly serving the Twin Cities and areas surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota

[This message has been edited by Bob Knauff (edited August 11, 2005).]

Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 07:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Bob,

"What are "levels"."

"Levels" are what you are "reading", so if the radon "reading" vary, the "level" of the radon you are "reading" also varies.

Not to be confused with something like Level 1, Level 2, which does not apply to this discussion.

Bruce: "High humidity is irrelevant to some devices but will void others."

Bruce: "That thunderstorm and all that rain could have affected the radon results (regardless of the device used)."

Bruce: "The radon levels inside the house may actually increase when the outside soil is wet because the radon takes the path of least resistance (into the house rather than through the wet soil)."

I just do not understand the 'it does affect it, but does not affect it' and 'radon levels are always about the same, but vary at times and under other conditions' answers in some of the posts.

Am I the only one confused?

(Or just the only one sticking their neck out to get whacked? )

------------------
Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Thomas
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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 09:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Jerry,

Look at each point in the testing protocols as a nail when building a house. If you leave them all out, BIG problem, the house falls down. If you leave out some of them, it may be a problem but maybe not. I like to use more nails than the code calls for.

Humidity:
Charcoal canister, test void or the error is so high the result should be thrown out. Open canisters must be weighed at the lab to see if they have absorbed any moisture before they are read.
E-PERM no difference either way.
Liquid Charcoal no difference either way.

Thunder storms cause problems so the confidence in the result is in question. When in doubt throw it out. Retest in calm weather.

Testing in the deep south? Check the EPA maps to see if you can make a business out of it. If you don't have a high area, not enough folks will order a test so you can't make a profit so don't do it. Dis ain't a charity or government organization.

Bruce

------------------
Make it a great day!

Bruce Breedlove
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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 10:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



Jerry,

We have two guys named Bruce contributing to this thread. You quoted both of us in your last post without differentiating between us. I think that is adding to your confusion.

Also, it appears you are confusing 'humidity' and 'precipitation'. Let me see if I can clear up this one bit of confusion.

How can humidity affect a radon test? An activated charcoal canister collects radon on the surface of the activated charcoal through adsorption (not to be confused with absorption).

Remember that radon is inert and does not chemically bond to other substances (that is why radon is released from the soil). The activated charcoal has no radon on it when the canister is opened and placed in a room with radon. The activated charcoal wants to create an equilibrium between the concentration of radon in the room and the concentration of radon on its surface. So, the higher the level of radon in the room the more radon that needs to be adsorbed to the surface of the activated charcoal.

But more is going on here. Water molecules also want to bond to the activated charcoal. Every time a water molecule hitches itself to the activated charcoal that is one less location that radon can be adsorbed. If enough water molecules attach to the activated charcoal there won’t be enough locations left for radon. So, the higher the humidity the less accurate the activated charcoal canister test.

But not all devices operate in the same manner. I use E-PERMs which are not affected by humidity. As Bruce T. described above, E-PERMs measure radon by attracting ions produced when radon decays to a positively charged electret; every time an ion (-) reaches the electret (+) the voltage of the electret drops a bit. The voltage drop (as well as test duration, elevation, background radiation, etc.) is fed into a formula to calculate the radon level. High humidity has no effect on an E-PERM.

How does precipitation affect a radon test? It can affect it in at least two ways.

1. A storm can change the pressures acting on the house. Under normal conditions a house will have a certain negative pressure caused by stack effect (look it up) and air exhausted from the house by the clothes dryer, bathroom exhaust fans, etc. and by combustion appliances (furnace, water heater, fireplace). During a storm the atmospheric pressure can change quite a bit affecting the difference in pressure between the house and the atmosphere. If the pressure in the house is much lower than the atmospheric pressure the radon will be drawn to the house (the house is acting like a giant vacuum cleaner). If the atmospheric pressure drops substantially (as in a storm) the pressure differential between the house and the atmosphere is reduced so less radon will be drawn to the house. That is why the protocols say not to test during a storm.

2. Radon likes to take the path of least resistance. When radon forms it makes its way to the surface. Cracks and fissures in the rock are an easy path. If the soil at the surface is wet (e.g., after a rain) that path will be more difficult than if the soil were dry. The path through a nearby basement (or crawlspace or slab) may be easier. So radon rising 10' outside the footprint of the house (normally would have entered the outside air) may detour into the house when the soil at the surface is wet. In other words, wet soil after a rain may increase the amount of radon in the home.

Precipitation then would affect the radon measurement regardless of what device was used.

I hope that explains things better for you.

As Bob said, radon testing is not for everyone. If you are in EPA Zone 3 maybe it would not be worth the time and expense to offer this service. I happen to be in Zone 1 (the highest potential) and I get a fair amount of radon measurement business. The majority of the houses I measure are above EPA's threshold. The highest radon level I have measured so far was 69. Where you are you may never see one over 6.


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Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 10:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


My questions were not about whether or not I should offer radon, I know that would be a waste "down here", my questions were about the contradictory information being provided by "the many" different posters.

I was trying to get a consensus of:

Do radon levels (readings) vary?

The answer is 'Yes.' and 'No.', depending on who is answering the question.

And, if radon levels (and readings) vary, how can one be sure that the reading they got at the time of their test is "the right one".

The answer seems to be "Yes, it is the right one." Which really does not answer the question.

So be it, I was just trying to get consensus where there was none. And still is none.

------------------
Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Breedlove
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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 12:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



Jerry,

Do radon levels vary?

Yes.

How can one be sure that the reading they got at the time of their test is "the right one"?

The "right" measurement (if by right you mean the average radon level occupants are exposed to over a long period of time) would be a long-term test lasting one year that averages out the seasonal and shorter fluctuations. A 91-day test would not account for season fluctuations. Long-term tests measure occupant exposure.

A short-term test is an indicator of whether a home may or may not have elevated levels of radon. Short-terms tests measure the radon potential of a house.

If you want to know exactly what the level of radon is we must first define "is". (Thank you Bill Clinton.) A radon test conducted to the protocols will tell you what the radon levels were during the measurement period. Can the radon levels be different if you do another test at another time? Certainly.

If you are asking, "Does a short-term test provide the yearly average radon level in the home?" the answer is "no". Again, a short-term test is only an indicator. If your short-term test results are above 4.0 but less than 10.0 EPA recommends you conduct a long-term test. If the results are above 10.0 there is a reasonable certainty that the yearly average will be elevated so mitigation is recommended.

In a real estate transaction you may not have time to do a long-term test but a short-term test would let you know if the house has the potential to have elevated levels of radon.

This is not black and white. A radon level of 3.9 does not mean you dodged the bullet and are completely safe and a level of 4.1 does not mean you will die. Exposure to any level of radon (actually the decay products of radon) carries a health risk. The only level of radon that poses no health risk is zero.

What we, as radon measurement professionals, are trying to do is to provide our clients with the best information possible so they can make an informed decision. If their timeframe only allows for a short-term test then we should inform them of the limitations of the test.

I know you are playing Devil's advocate here but it is an interesting exchange of ideas.

------------------
Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 11, 2005 12:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Bruce (Breedlove),

"I know you are playing Devil's advocate here "

Actually, I am not, I am trying to get, for myself and everyone else,a clear statement of (for lack of a better term) the unreliability of radon testing (as done for real estate transactions, as that is the type most HIs do.

"A short-term test is an indicator of whether a home may or may not have elevated levels of radon. Short-terms tests measure the radon potential of a house."

Unless that test was done during a time of lower radon levels, as can happen seasonally, in which case a short-term test measures for MINIMUM radon potential, with the REAL POTENTIAL for radon being *anything higher* than that.

"A radon test conducted to the protocols will tell you what the radon levels were during the measurement period. Can the radon levels be different if you do another test at another time? Certainly."

So, as I stated in an earlier question, one COULD get an acceptable reading of 3, the deal fall through, and the next test could get an unacceptable reading as ANYTHING HIGHER, say even a 40, due to all the factors which causes the variation in radon levels.

Thus, doing a radon test could give a "false" negative (acceptable reading), and really only provides a "true" positive (unacceptable) reading, which could actually be worse than the unacceptable reading obtained.

I thank you for your educational information as you, and others, know much more about radon than I do. I am not trying to get you to paint yourself into a corner, I am trying to determine *IF* there is a corner there in which one who tests for radon COULD paint themselves into. The answer seems to be (at least to me) 'Yes. Watch out for that corner.'

------------------
Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bob Knauff
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home inspection posted August 12, 2005 08:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Knauff   Click Here to Email Bob Knauff     Edit/Delete Message


Bruce T.,

""If both testers are above 4.0 a 36% relative difference or less is acceptable and the results can be used. If both testers are below 4.0 a 67% relative difference is acceptable. And so on and so on." Please tell me where you came by these figures. It's my understanding that 25% RDP or COV or less for a side by side test is acceptable."

To avoid boring the shorts off our gentle readers (how’s THAT for a politically correct term! Ha!) Please go to the EPA site at: http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/devprot1.html and check out the answer to your question. Basically, the 25% figure is the allowable figure for a unit being tested against a known source in a lab where the 36%/67% figures are used when comparing device readings to each other in the field.

O.K. one more time, let’s start at the beginning for clarity. Radon is present to some degree in all soils all over the world. For the sake of discussion let’s use a residential 2 story dwelling with a basement even though the same processes applies to slab on grade homes and multi story buildings alike. We’ll limit our discussion to a measurement done for a real-estate transaction which must be no less than a 48 hour test. Since the phrase “short term” is defined as a period from 48 hours to 90 days by the EPA, let’s just consider short term to be the 48 hour real-estate test.

So, radon (and any other stuff that happens to be in the soil and able to travel through cracks, like mold spores and vapor) are either forced into our homes by natural forces creating a positive pressure on the outside of the building like wind or rain or frost or are drawn in by our use of mechanical devices like furnaces, bath vent fans, stove vent fans, fireplaces and so on creating a negative pressure inside the home.
Since radon is present in soil all the time and, for al practical purposes does not fluctuate, elevated readings COULD be considered “seasonal” in that we (in the cold climates) will have our homes closed tight with the vent fans running which creates a negative pressure in the home and DRAWS the stuff in faster through voids where concrete meets soil.

In summer or warmer climates, even without exhaust fans operating and helping the process along, a building interior has a natural stack effect where heat rises and draws a certain amount of lower level cooler air up to higher levels. Open a window or skylight and the process is greatly enhanced. This natural air movement tends to draw radon into the dwelling also, just not to the degree that mechanically venting the home will of course.

Since radon is a gas it travels easily through extremely tiny voids such as the cold joint created between a basement slab and the block wall/footing or where concrete meets plumbing fixture penetrations in floors not to mention outright cracks in floors or walls.

So as Jerry said, “Unless that test was done during a time of lower radon levels, as can happen seasonally…” is partially true. The seasons will cause us or nature to draw or push the stuff into our homes faster or slower, however there is no “time of lower radon levels”. It is there all the time just waiting to go someplace. It is just influenced by all the other forces to travel faster or in a certain direction.

The next step needing addressing is measurement of radon. If you haven’t gotten the gut feeling reading the posts to this point that the protocols and testing devices already in place have been analyzed and refined to death by scientists, you haven’t been paying attention. The testing parameters and requirements are in place, the test devices are improving every day and educating the testers is ongoing. ALL short term testing MUST be done under what is termed “closed house conditions”. The home must have all outside doors and windows closed for at least 12 hours prior to the test to allow the home to achieve some internal balance and be kept closed except for normal entry and exit, during the entire test. A/C and heating can occur normally during the test period.

With those points made let’s address Jerry’s questions:

"A short-term test is an indicator of whether a home may or may not have elevated levels of radon. Short-terms tests measure the radon potential of a house."

True. Actually any testing is for that purpose but short term testing is what we are discussing here.

“Unless that test was done during a time of lower radon levels, as can happen seasonally…”

As already established there are no “times of lower radon levels”, only times of outside influences that affect the movement of the gas.

“…in which case a short-term test measures for MINIMUM radon potential, with the REAL POTENTIAL for radon being *anything higher* than that.”

Testing measures for ANY radon potential. It may well be the test period caught radon levels at their highest, over that short term, and subsequent long term testing may average lower. A short term test will give a reading that determines if the gas is present at a level which MAY need attention but much like a home inspection, is just a snapshot of the conditions at that point in time. True, the longer the testing period the better idea one will have of the average levels in a home BUT (and this is a big but) the technician administering the test has the ultimate responsibility to assess all things that did or could have influenced the test and make a judgment of the real meaning of the resultant readings. Enter into the equation here the type of test device used, the weather, and the technicians’ level of expertise and so on.

As an aside, I use the term technician because when push comes to shove any person placing a tester is expected to know what they are doing and be able to analyze and interpret the reading and as such is considered the “lab” for this purpose. The liability here is obvious as is the need to be properly trained and hopefully certified, if testing for radon for the public.

"A radon test conducted to protocols will tell you what the radon levels were during the measurement period. Can the radon levels be different if you do another test at another time? Certainly."

Correct.

“So, as I stated in an earlier question, one COULD get an acceptable reading of 3, the deal fall through, and the next test could get an unacceptable reading as ANYTHING HIGHER, say even a 40, due to all the factors which causes the variation in radon levels.”

No. If established protocols are followed and the technician correctly analyzes the data a variation of only a few percentage points can reasonably be expected in your scenario. Wild fluctuations, as suggested, cannot be expected (and should never be found) or something dire is wrong with the test procedure or the device or the technician, or the environment affecting the building. Or…the seller tampered with the device.

“Thus, doing a radon test could give a "false" negative (acceptable reading), and really only provides a "true" positive (unacceptable) reading, which could actually be worse than the unacceptable reading obtained.”

Sorry, ya lost me on this one. The statement brings to mind the old Abbott & Costello bit “Who’s On First”.

“I thank you for your educational information as you, and others, know much more about radon than I do. I am not trying to get you to paint yourself into a corner, I am trying to determine *IF* there is a corner there in which one who tests for radon COULD paint themselves into. The answer seems to be (at least to me) 'Yes. Watch out for that corner.'”

The only way I can see painting ones self into a corner with this radon business is if they are not properly trained in the protocols and testing procedures and attempt to do testing for the general public. In that case they are just asking to be painting the corners of the local county jail cells for a while after some attorney gets done with them.

And lastly, but Jerry’s first paragraph,

“"I know you are playing Devil's advocate here” Actually, I am not, I am trying to get, for myself and everyone else, a clear statement of (for lack of a better term) the unreliability of radon testing (as done for real estate transactions, as that is the type most HIs do.”

As with anything we HI’s do, a good, safe, knowledgeable job and the best service possible for clients come from continuous education. It’s too bad more of the 2000+ members of this forum don’t ask questions that need to be asked. Ask and ask again until the question is satisfied. We all benefit.

I highly recommend visiting:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/radon/pubs/index.html

and reading the two little booklets listed here. Easy reading and tons of good info.

Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction How to Reduce Radon Levels in Your Home...

Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon (Newly Revised!)


------------------
Bob

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Proudly serving the Twin Cities and areas surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota

Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 12, 2005 11:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Bob: "Since radon is present in soil all the time and, for al practical purposes does not fluctuate, elevated readings COULD be considered “seasonal” in that we (in the cold climates) will have our homes closed tight with the vent fans running which creates a negative pressure in the home and DRAWS the stuff in faster through voids where concrete meets soil."

Jerry: (previously) “So, as I stated in an earlier question, one COULD get an acceptable reading of 3, the deal fall through, and the next test could get an unacceptable reading as ANYTHING HIGHER, say even a 40, due to all the factors which causes the variation in radon levels.”

Bob: "No. If established protocols are followed and the technician correctly analyzes the data a variation of only a few percentage points can reasonably be expected in your scenario. Wild fluctuations, as suggested, cannot be expected (and should never be found) or something dire is wrong with the test procedure or the device or the technician, or the environment affecting the building. Or…the seller tampered with the device."

Jerry: Huh?

Bob: (see above) "elevated readings COULD be considered “seasonal”"

Jerry: I.e., radon levels (readings) CAN change over time do to various factors. Which is what I said (see below) and what you said (see above).

Jerry" (previously) "one COULD get an acceptable reading of 3, the deal fall through, and the next test could get an unacceptable reading as ANYTHING HIGHER"

Bob: " "No. If established protocols are followed and the technician correctly analyzes the data a variation of only a few percentage points"

Jerry: Bob, to clear this up, have you ever done, and have recorded results from, a long term (at least one year, and preferably more) testing?

Jerry: (previously) “…in which case a short-term test measures for MINIMUM radon potential, with the REAL POTENTIAL for radon being *anything higher* than that.”

Bob: "Testing measures for ANY radon potential."

Jerry: No, testing of any sort, at any time can only test for what is there at that time. Just like our inspections are a snap shot in time, the radon test IS NOT testing "for ANY" radon potential, testing IS testing for "whatever" radon is present at the time of testing.

Can you get higher readings? Yes.

Can you get lower readings? Yes.

Jerry: (previously) “Thus, doing a radon test could give a "false" negative (acceptable reading), and really only provides a "true" positive (unacceptable) reading, which could actually be worse than the unacceptable reading obtained.”

Bob: Sorry, ya lost me on this one. The statement brings to mind the old Abbott & Costello bit “Who’s On First”.

Okay, I'll try to explain:

If you get an acceptable reading, any acceptable reading at the first test, and get a lower reading at some future time, the higher reading is what counts. In this case, the higher reading ended up having been taken first. Thus, the first reading could be considered a 'false low', but it does not matter as the higher reading was acceptable.

If you get an acceptable reading, any acceptable reading, at the first test, and get a higher reading at some future time, the higher reading is what counts. In this case the higher reading was taken later. The first reading could be considered a 'false high', because we not it is "at least" that high, but we do not know "how much higher" it is.

When I referred to "false negative", that was meaning "an acceptable reading", or "negative" to high radon levels.

When I referred to "true positive", that was meaning if the first reading was "positive for high radon levels", then, even if you get a lower reading later, you already have established, that at the time of the first test, there is high radon levels.

Bob: "Since radon is present in soil all the time and, for al practical purposes does not fluctuate,"

Jerry: We are referring to "readings" taken indoors, and those "readings" are the result of radon "levels", if the "readings" change, the "level" of radon also changed - unless you are using faulty equipment. Remember, I used to be a quality control test person for many years, then in standards lab calibrating that test equipment. If the level being tested does not change, but the reading does - the equipment is faulty.

Not referring to the amount of radon in the soil but how much has been driven out and into the structure.

I won't bother you too much more on this as we are getting ready to go camping again - so this topic should calm down over the weekend. I need a 'Gon Campin' sign.

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Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bob Knauff
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home inspection posted August 12, 2005 12:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Knauff   Click Here to Email Bob Knauff     Edit/Delete Message


Jerry, I don't know how better to explain it. Radon is ever present. It is either driven into our homes or sucked in. Taking into consideration the many vairables such as weather, type of home, tester expertise, test methods, etc. we test for a sample of it at a point in time, as best we can until information comes along that influences the existing system. It is vital the technician be able to input all parameters of weather, structure type, known device accuracy and so on to make an informed decision but in the end the reading should never vary more than a few percentage points no matter time of year or test equipment or test person or number of tests performed, at least that is the goal of the radon gurus and seems achievable, even now. The closed house condition requirement is the attempt to standardize living conditions from home to home since it best approximates our living conditions in the winter. After that, ya can't control weather or the living habits of the occupants but ya try to have SOME common test basis and the closed house is one. Beyond that there are many requirements for proper placement of testers and so on that also attempt to standardize as much a humanly possible the testing proceedures to be sure they are repeatable. Again, proper training is vital here.

Never had occassion to test for more than a few weeks at one stretch, in my own home. Wouldn't and couldn't (economically) leave my tester in a clients home for very long. My home tested twice about 2 months apart and both readings did not match but were within 7% of one another. Same test device and same location.

Have a good weekend. I'm off to the NCI carbon monoxide training seminar in Madison, WI. this next week, for 3 days. That will be my "vacation" Looking forward to it!

------------------
Bob

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Bruce Breedlove
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home inspection posted August 12, 2005 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message



We really should not be talking in terms of "Acceptable" and "Unacceptable" readings / levels. Using such black & white terms makes the public (and our clients) think that they are perfectly safe with a radon level of 3.9 (they are not).

There is a health risk from ANY exposure to radon (or more accurately, radon decay products). The risk is small at low exposures and greater at higher exposures.

EPA established their Action Level at 4.0 pCi/L because the cost/benefit ratio of mitigating homes with lower levels of radon was too high.

EPA states "EPA believes that any radon exposure carries some risk; no level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk. You can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level." (EPA 'Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon' July 2000, pg. 19)

On the subject of radon level fluctuations let me cite a real world example. A home had a succession of 48-hour tests over a three-month period (the minimum length of time for a long-term test). As soon as one 48-hour test was completed another one was started. The results are very interesting. The lowest level was 1.9 and the highest was 6.0. All other levels were somewhere in between. The average of the tests was 3.8 (below EPA's action level).

When you take your snapshot of the radon level with your 48-hour test how do you know if you are on the high side or the low side of the average level? You don't. How could you? What you have is the best information available based on the limited timeframe given to conduct the test. It is an indicator.

As I stated before, a long-term test is the best way to measure the home's year-round average radon level.

------------------
Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Bob Knauff
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home inspection posted August 13, 2005 04:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Knauff   Click Here to Email Bob Knauff     Edit/Delete Message


Mr. Stokes original post states:

"It has been suggested that a small wattage light blub below the test unit will dry the air enough to stabilize the test unit."

Since he did not state what type of tester being used it is impossible to make a determinatin but I ran across this in a femto-TECH owners manual.

"Operating the Model-CRM 510LP outside the specified humidity range (10 to 90% RH) is not recommended, due to the posibility of moisture condensation on the surfaces of the sensitive electronic components. If a measurement must be performed under very high (>90% RH) humidity conditions, the condensation can be eliminated by heating the Model CRM-510LP cabinet slightly above room tepmerature. A convenient way to accomplish this, is through radiant heating with a small wattage lamp (15 to 25 watt)."

------------------
Bob

Think Safety!

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Proudly serving the Twin Cities and areas surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota

[This message has been edited by Bob Knauff (edited August 13, 2005).]

Caoimhín P. Connell
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home inspection posted August 15, 2005 07:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Caoimhín P. Connell   Click Here to Email Caoimhín P. Connell     Edit/Delete Message


Hello Folks-

I have been away for a few days, and I will try to raise some of the questions that were raised:

Bruce Thomas:


The EPA, AARST American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, The National Academy of Scientists, The American Cancer Society, The American Lung Association, The University or Iowa, The University of Minnesota, and all of the BIER studies disagree with you in part or as a whole.

Really? Look again – The US EPA states that:



The only human data available for predicting the risks to the public are studies examining the health effects of exposure to radon and its progeny in underground miners. This information would be appropriate for predicting the risks to the public if everyone was a miner, everyone lived in mines, and a large fraction of the general population smoked cigarettes.


It seems that I am in complete agreement with the EPA, and go on to wonder why such data, if only appropriate for predicting the risks to the public if everyone was a miner, everyone lived in mines, was used outside of that context? Furthermore, WHICH BEIR are you referring to, that you think I disagree with? It seems to me that all the way up to BEIR VII the models are STILL showing an inverse risk model at elevated doses! Finally, since the other orgs that you mentioned are all basing their positions on the EPA data, let’s not forget the basis upon which the models are founded:



Exposure in the U.S. cohort is poorly known; cumulative WLM (CWLM) are calculated from measured radon levels for only 10.3 percent of the miners...and guesswork is used for about 53.6 percent of the miners.


Guesswork –

So point out to me exactly (from original documents, NOT reliant upon the EPA stuff) where these orgs disagree with me.


The point is if it weren't for radon the inert harmless gas the harmful progeny couldn't get from the rock into our living space. So what's the big deal if we call it Radon, polonium, bismuth or lead. The decay chain is radio active and harmful and I don't want any of them in my house. So I install the system to suck the carrier out and the rest of them go with it.

Simply put, this isn’t the point. You’ve missed the point on two accounts – 1) The SLRDs are a moot point in a home vis-à-vis risk, and 2) Even if they were, one can mitigate the SLRDs and not have to address the radon issue at all.


As far as measuring the gas, everyone knows or should know what each device is measuring. In each case each measurement can be mathematically reduced and brought back to the quantity of radon described in pCi/L the quantity of it's radio activity (but you knew that).

Not it can’t. Wrong again. You misunderstand how these devices work and you putting HUGE amounts of faith into magical little black boxes.


The bottom line is we are just trying to make a living. Doing things by the book as we know it and complying with all of the requirements. As I said in my previous post if you want to participate in meaningful change then join the big dogs in the hunt and serve on a stake holders committee to rewrite the protocols or you could sit on the porch and yip by writing posts to a bulletin board.

Been there – done that, on to more important things. In the world of epidemiology, and health physics, the radon thing is a dead letter.


Jeff Beck:

Does whatever you want to call what we do now as testing (Radon, SLRS or Radon Progeny) have any long term effect ON REDUCING THE OCCURANCE OF LUNG CANCER in the occupants of the homes that we inspect ?

Jeff, there is no evidence to suggest that the testing thus performed or the mitigation thus performed in this country has had the SLIGHTEST effect in reducing lung cancer, when corrected for all other factors (such as the reduction in smoking incidence in the US population).


If I have a complaint about Mr. Connell’s post he seems to be saying everything we are doing has little or no basis in fact (beginning with the EPA’s measurement protocol and extending to the measurement equipment industry) but doesn’t provide any direction for a solution, or am I missing something?

I think you have said it nicely. The entire radon issue is driven by risk models that are considered by virtually the entire world’s health physicists and epidemiologists, to be so grossly in appropriate to not be worthy of further consideration, since the models entirely reject object reality, in favour of whims, and guesses. Then, the data quality objectives used, and the sampling methods used are so outside of accepted standard air monitoring practices as to be laughable – all to meet a threshold (4 pCi/l) that has no basis in science. (Do you know where the 4 pCi/l came from? You don’t actually think it was an health based limit or a risk based limit, do you?)

Back to Bruce Breedlove:


No matter how precise and accurate our radon measurement devices may be we are still only measuring the potential for health risk due prolong exposure to radon decay products.

Completely untrue. You are not even measuring the entities that are responsible for what is thought to give rise to the risk. You entirely misunderstand your monitoring devices and how they relate to the SLRDs in the home. For example, unless you are actually measuring the equilibration ratio in the home you are investigating, how can you possibly know what the conversion from your units to WLs are? You can’t – it’s that simple, so you use yet another piece of EPA guess work – a mysterious ER of 0.5. Where did that come from, Bruce? Would you like to present here where the EPA, AARST, The National Academy of Scientists, The American Cancer Society, The American Lung Association, The University or Iowa, The University of Minnesota, or the BIER committee actually supports or documents the validity of the assumed ER and how valid that is in the acceptance of normal data quality objectives?


Our short-terms tests (typically 48 hours) measure the radon (or radon decay product) levels present during the measurement period.

Sorry, Bruce, wrong again. No they don’t. Again, you don’t understand what you are measuring and how your devices work.


The best way to determine the actual average radon (or radon decay product) levels in a home is to conduct a long-term measurement (31 days to one year). In real estate transactions the timeframe for inspections is tight hence the short-term radon (or radon decay product) test.

I disagree. For a start, did you know that your sampling error is only reduced to about 50% with a six month sample?


Don't forget that long-term exposure to elevated levels of radon decay products is the second leading cause of lung cancer (behind smoking).

There are no independent studies that support that argument. The NRC simply left it as an opened ended question by stating:



In summary, a number of sources of uncertainty may substantially affect the committee's risk projections; the magnitude of uncertainty associated with each of these sources cannot readily be quantified. Accordingly, the committee acknowledges that the total uncertainty in it's risk projections is large.


And the DOE stated



Depending on the set of assumptions used,
the estimated values for lung cancer rates from environmental exposure to radon currently range from quite small to as large as 25% of the total annual lung cancer deaths in the United States.


How large, and what are the assumptions? And when will the illustrious orgs that you mention start to determine whether the total accumulative life-time dose or the dose rate is more important?


I wish the other known carcinogens were as easy to measure and remove.

Like what? Like saccharine and Alar? (Good GAWD, don’t let’s go down those roads of Governmental policy wonk genius. Don’t tell me you believe that saccharine is carcinogenic and all? I have a bridge for sell, interested?)

Jerry Peck:

Now, what I do not understand is, and everyone seems to be in agreement on this, with radon levels knowingly varying up and down over time, time of day, daily, weekly, yearly, during rains, etc., how can one get a 'good' measurement and rely on that, or get a 'bad' measurement and rely on that?

There are ways to better reduce the sampling error, and make reasonably good estimates. However, most of these are not available to HIs in the short time frame required. However, consider, for example, glass and some other materials in the house can be used as ad hoc alpha traks, providing an actual historical record of SLRD concentrations in homes. But, the values thus derived show only the retro cumulative concentration, not the “current” concentration. Still, for the money, it beat the heck out of goofy three, five or seven day “radon” monitors.


…then why not just install mitigation system in EVERY house in that area?

Because the science upon which the risks were based are so highly contentious and on such shaky ground that 30 years from now, we will be laughing at the radon scare and classify it with the other junk science scares created by policy wonks bereft of science …( Did I mention Alar and saccharine?)

You clock analogy is well taken and is appropriate here for the purposes of demonstrating the difference between accuracy and precision – whereas a stopped clock is accurate twice a day, a precise clock will NEVER be accurate. The precision of “radon” devices for measuring the presumed radon concentration as a presumed ER is a whomping 0.9! However, considering that the precision of the EPA risk models is even larger … well, why not measure radon for only 6 minutes and accept that number? In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t really change the over all picture of silliness that underpins the radon issue.

Bruce:


A "normal" radon test, if you plot it on an hourly basis would look like a sine wave with 4 peaks and 4 valleys over the 48 hours.

Not necessarily true.


Now the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L is based on a year long average under normal living conditions.

No it isn’t. That statement is entirely and completely incorrect. The 4 pCi/l threshold is NOT based on ANY risk estimates, not even on their own risk estimates. There is NO health based support for the 4 pCi/l limit, not even within the EPA. You have been hoodwinked, if you think otherwise.

Jerry –

Remember, the radon device isn’t measuring radon. It isn’t even measuring the SLDRs in the home. For example, if you are using a charcoal canister, it is looking at the gamma spec from essentially the last 12 to 15 hours of the test, and using some magical jiggery-pokery fundge numbers that have not been quantified for the house understudy, it is converting the value into what the radon concentration would possibly be IF, that house behaved in a manner consistent with the presumptions in a model house. At the end of the day, all other issues aside, when you have performed your radon measufing according to EPA protocol, you have neither measured radon, nor the SLRDs for that home – Point blank. It is that simple.

The numbers, actually aren’t bogus. The context in which Bruce is operating, is limited exclusively to his area. The context of my discussion, is national, if not global. So it would rather be like Bruce measuring CO in his house and concluding that CO isn’t a problem, because it isn’t a problem in HIS house. The error associated with the numbers (the variations) that I used is based on tens of thousands of results, spread across the US.


Jack Feldmann


Do carbon monoxide readings vary with weather conditions, or other circumstances?

Jack, it would depend on the source of the CO. However, in general, non-descriminate sources of indoor contaminants all show a lognormal distribution over time, the dependant variable will be the time-frame for the conditions under study. Even in a factory, using truly scientific measuring methods, we still see such variations, however, our data quality objectives are such that the sampling errors typically are on the order of 0.02 to 0.05.

Bob Knauff

With all due respect, most of what you said is not true. But that is OK – I don’t inspect houses because I lack the technical expertise to so do – you are not an epidemiologist for precisely the same reasons. My suggestion is – stick to what you know. That is what I do. Having lectured in radiation toxicology at university level, and having performed actual radiation assessments and ionizing radiation audits for hospitals, CERCLA sites, and having been the radiation safety officer for a toxicology firm for many years, I don’t dabble in home inspections. One of the reasons the EPA has backed off of its radon craze in recent years is because of the global ridicule that it received (and those who swallowed its rubbish) the worldwide body of scientists who flatly rejected the EPA’s risk models as junk science. Even the EPA finally stated “Yes, it may be bad science, but it makes good policy.” Good Lord, how does a scientist deal with that?

Anyway –

I only made it down as far down the thread as August 10th, 2005 (Jerry Peck’s post), and I need to move on – so in conclusion.

1) HIs can provide a valuable service by offering radon measuring since the homeowners no better understand the limitations of the readings than do the HIs taking them.

2) There has not yet been a single scientifically valid study performed anywhere in the world which conclusively demonstrates that radon concentrations as typically seen in homes increases the risk of cancer by a single iota.


3) Radon measuring devices available to HIs don’t measure radon.

4) Radon measuring devices available to HIs don’t measure SLRDs in a home.


5) Following a radon test, the HI still has no idea of either the radon concentration in the home or the SLRD concentration in the home, and (more important from an industrial hygiene perspective) has absolutely no idea of the health risk the numbers convey.

6) Finally, remember, CARCINOGEN does NOT mean “cancer causer.” So when the EPA discusses carcinogen, they are really discussing a carcinogen, not necessarily a cancer causing agent. (GASP! I feel another lengthy thread developing. )


7) If you think that the EPA and the other orgs have the authoritative last word … just look at Alar and saccharine; (Oh, and consider this, did you know that when the authorities relocated the Three Mile Island “victims” they relocated them from areas of low radiation to areas of HIGHER radiation since it was more important to be seen to be proactive than to actually address the realities of the exposure scenarios and the subsequent risks!)

8) As far as I am concerned, consider the horse flogged to death. This thread is nothing compared to the heated passionate debates that took place amongst scientists in the prestigious peer reviewed journal Nature in the late eighties and early nineties.

Cheers, and enjoy the day!
Caoimhín P. Connell

p.s. I have never measured the radon in my own home.

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

Bruce Breedlove
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home inspection posted August 15, 2005 12:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Breedlove   Click Here to Email Bruce Breedlove     Edit/Delete Message


Mr. (Mrs.?) Connell,

Please cite your source for the following statement you made above.

"The US EPA states that:

The only human data available for predicting the risks to the public are studies examining the health effects of exposure to radon and its progeny in underground miners. This information would be appropriate for predicting the risks to the public if everyone was a miner, everyone lived in mines, and a large fraction of the general population smoked cigarettes."

When I googled the quote the only two hits were your Forensic Industrial Hygienist site and another home inspector discussion board where you posted the quote. (Interesting how you seem to be attracted to home inspector boards.)

Please direct me to your source for the above EPA quote as I would like to confirm it for myself.

You also directed the following to me, "For example, unless you are actually measuring the equilibration ratio in the home you are investigating, how can you possibly know what the conversion from your units to WLs are?"

For your information, I do measure the equilibrium ratio as well as the Working Level (radon decay products).

You proudly stated, "I have never measured the radon in my own home." You are only 90 miles from me. How about I demonstrate my device for you sometime? Drop me a note if you are interested.

------------------
Bruce Breedlove
Avalon Inspection Services
Colorado Springs, CO

Bruce Thomas
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home inspection posted August 15, 2005 05:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Caoimhín

These statements are from your web site.

"I believe that the issue of health effects associated with long term exposure to low levels of radon will probably remain shrouded in uncertainty for at least the next generation, until the measurements which we take today will be used to compare with the mortality rates of our generation. Until then, the question of cost of radon reduction, vs. the benefits will be a very difficult question to answer. The concept of "safety" is merely an attempt to achieve an acceptable level of risk; zero risk cannot be reached. Personal choices will mandate the level which is "safe" for that individual.

Although in general, I believe that the concept of ALARA should be incorporated, particularly with regard to the protection of children, given that the levels of radon associated with most homes is virtually at the EPA threshold (which is not based on health effects, but rather based on technologically feasible reduction levels), I cannot provide much insight as to what would be "a reasonably safe level" based on economic and technological considerations."

I don't have to look up ALARA in layman's terms it's "As Low As Reasonable Achievable" and that is exactly what we as radon testers are trying to do. Since we work with the public we must have a number or threshold to go by. The action (economically feasible ) level is set at 4pCi/L and it IS based on a year long average. We know that it's not that simple but try explaining nuclear physics to the social worker mother with 3 kids under age 5 or the accountant or lawyer who just want to move into their new home and make sure it's "safe". I haven't got 16 hours to spend with each individual client. I keep things in layman's terms answer questions until they stop asking and refer them to several good web sites.

It seems that we agree on many things when it comes to radon and we all know how bright and well schooled you are, so please keep it simple for us nonscientific types we can only stand so much detail and I haven't got the next 9 or 10 years to go get a PHD, so I'm going to have to rely on those who have them down at the National Academy of Sciences and trust what they say.

Bruce Thomas

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Make it a great day!

Mark Jones
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home inspection posted August 15, 2005 10:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mark Jones   Click Here to Email Mark Jones     Edit/Delete Message


Now, I'm confused, too. Are we using words with different meanings that look and sound alike?

6) Finally, remember, CARCINOGEN does NOT mean “cancer causer.”

Main Entry: car•cin•o•gen
Pronunciation: kär-'si-n&-j&n, 'kär-s&n-&-"jen
Function: noun
: a substance or agent producing or inciting cancer http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=+CARCINOGEN+&x=15&y=15

Too much,

------------------
Safe Haven Mark

Caoimhín P. Connell
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home inspection posted August 17, 2005 05:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Caoimhín P. Connell   Click Here to Email Caoimhín P. Connell     Edit/Delete Message


Hello to the Two Bruces and one Mark!

First Mr. Breedlove:

You can find the references you request on my radon page, (just follow the link from my main page). Also, I doubt that you are actually measuring the ER, although I have no doubt that you think you are measuring the ER. The ER is as dynamic as the radon concentration, and for any one new introduction of a particulate loading, the ER (as determined from the particle loading will typically exhibit an exponential decay typically given as:
www.forensic-applications.com/radon/decay.jpg

If you recognize this algorithm and are employing it (or similar) I would believe you, otherwise, I suspect that I would consume your ER estimates somewhere between breakfast and dinner.

Thank you for your very kind offer for the demonstration, but I have taken hundreds upon hundreds of “radon” readings using a variety of monitors and CWL meters, electrets etc. and one more is frankly one too many. But seriously, thanks for the offer.

Next Mr. Thomas:

My greatest objection is to the debasement of science and the misinformation provided by and propagated by the EPA; which then gets swallowed up without question or context by other organizations as authoritative and then the whole argument becomes nothing more than tautology. (Did I mention saccharine and Alar?) There is nothing wrong with the EPA telling folks that there is no evidence yet that actually supports the argument that cancer rates are increased at radon concentrations typically seen in homes, but some people, using inappropriate data and simplistic, inappropriate models, think there may be some risk. But they don’t do that – they play the numbers game also.

Next Mr. Jones:

Although "cancer causing agent" is apparently a self-evident term, the term "carcinogen" is less tangible and has been evolving to keep up with our state of knowledge. Like so many other terms, the root meaning of the word remains the same as when it was first created, but its usage, for right or wrong, has been altered.

The term “carcinogen,” which strictly translated means "giving rise to carcinoma." Carcinomas, strictly translated are malignancies of the epithelium. But then, if an agent causes a malignancy to occur in other parenchyma, apart from epithelium, what do we call the agent? A “carcinogen,” of course, because the use of the word is no longer exclusively reserved for carcinomas. Thus, agents which produce sarcomas are now also termed carcinogens since the use of the word has been altered to fit the need.

The term now has its basis in the presumed model for cancer development. Let’s assume for the moment, that on the road to cancer, one must first have a neoplasm (the current presumption). The suffix -gen of "carcinogen," implies that the agent causes the neoplasm. In fact, carcinogens are roughly divided into two groups: genotoxic carcinogens and epigenetic carcinogens. Genotoxic carcinogens are those agents which can interact directly with a cell's DNA, corrupting the strand and resulting in an inheritable somatic mutation passed from initial cell to subsequent daughter cells.

Epigenetic carcinogens, by contrast, appear to promote and/or otherwise enhance the probability that a converted cell (the neoplastic cell) will dedifferentiate and (very importantly) loose its ability to properly communicate with surrounding cells and the rest of the total organism's system. Therefore, we have agents which cause a cell to mutate (genotoxic carcinogens) and agents which promote the mutation of a cell (epigenetic carcinogens). Yet we still refer to those promoters as carcinogens even though it is currently not thought that the promoter causes the cancer. Therefore, we can have a “carcinogen” that doesn’t even cause a neoplasm, much less a carcinoma.

Contrary to common belief, there are very few commonly agreed upon confirmed human cancer causing compounds. To memory, there are abut 23 confirmed genotoxic cancer causing compounds; 5 epigenetic compounds, and 5 that appear to be in a grey area. (This is from memory as I sit hit in my now famously blue bathrobe, with a cup of coffee. It is possible that the actual numbers are slightly different). And yet we have hundreds and hundreds of compounds listed as carcinogen. So, from whence comes the difference? From the fact that a compound no longer needs to cause a malignancy of any parenchyma to be classified as a carcinogen.

For each of these, for the functional definition of a carcinogen to be realized, it is assumed that a sufficient dose or dose rate has been received to result in a cancer; and thus begins the road to the highly contentious question of how much is required which in turn begins to form the now commonly used term “carcinogen.”

For example, although IARC has identified tobacco smoke as a cancer causing agent, the most up-to-date studies still show that if one were to study 1,000,000 individuals who smoke only four cigarettes per day for all of their lives, we would see that their risk of cancer (from all forms) is statistically no different than a group of 1,000,000 never smoked, non-smokers. People howl and scream when I bring this up in my classes on risk, but these are the simple facts, devoid of the social policies which ultimately mold the effective definitions of the word “carcinogen.”

This is largely how the EPA (irresponsibly) can justify their comments in their pamphlets that a certain radon level in a home carries with it the same risk of smoking four cigarettes a day. When analyzed, the EPA is simply saying that there is no additional risk of cancer at that level...but it doesn't sound that way does it? Statements like this, make a good scare tactic in spite of the fact that the data may actually show an effect opposite that which the EPA is attempting to emphasize. It is my personal opinion, that such usage of data is a debasement of science. Similar examples can be cited for alcohol and many other toxic substances.

The underpinning cohesive definition of "carcinogen" that emerges is a compound that results in one of the following physiological responses:

1) If the study group develops an increase in tumour types over that seen in the control groups.

2) If the study group develops tumours sooner than tumours seen in the control groups.

3) If the study group develops types of tumours not seen in the control groups (this is subtly different than response number one).

4) If the study group exhibits a multiplicity of any and all tumour types over that seen in the control groups.

In each case, the resulting tumour may be benign or malignant, it doesn't matter, since it is believed that a tumour is merely a steppingstone on the way to complete cell dedifferentiation.

I agree that if you look the word up in a dictionary or glossary, you will probably only find the commonly used definition. But even buried somewhere in the bowels of our Code of Federal Regulations (in either Title 40 or Title 29) the word “carcinogen” is given the criteria I have mentioned above.

Finally - allow me to make a clarification in response to a comment I received.

In an earlier post, where I presented the “raw data” for the example radon readings, I asked if anyone could identify why I had selected such an unusual “true” radon value for the house as 47 pCi/l – I had no takers.

Had I made a post stating that an home with a “true” radon reading of 0.5 pCi/l could be expected to have radon readings ranging from 0.9 pCi/l to zero, I probably wouldn’t have had much challenge. But when I said that a home with a “true” reading of 47 pCi/l could return values of 2 pCi/l to 90 pCi/l; then folks cried foul! In fact the two statements are identical with regard to variation and distribution.

Not even Mr. Breedlove, who called the data “bogus,” noted that the distribution (the variation about the mean) would be the same for a range of 0 to 0.9 when the true value is 0.5 pCi/l.

The distribution of the original data set I gave:

20 pCi/l
6 pCi/l
89 pCi/l
75 pCi/l
3 pCi/l
90 pCi/l
16 pCi/l
45 pCi/l
22 pCi/l
87 pCi/l
69 pCi/l
9 pCi/l
91 pCi/l
11 pCi/l
12 pCi/l
56 pCi/l
7 pCi/l
45 pCi/l
22 pCi/l
5 pCi/l

is statistically identical to this data set

0.2 pCi/l
0.06 pCi/l
0.89 pCi/l
0.75 pCi/l
0.03 pCi/l
0.9 pCi/l
0.16 pCi/l
0.45 pCi/l
0.22 pCi/l
0.87 pCi/l
0.69 pCi/l
0.09 pCi/l
0.91 pCi/l
0.11 pCi/l
0.12 pCi/l
0.56 pCi/l
0.07 pCi/l
0.45 pCi/l
0.22 pCi/l
0.05 pCi/l

Which is nothing more than the first set divided by 100.

Although both sets are virtually identical, the second set is more palatable because the numbers are simply smaller, and more familiar to HIs. The first set appears to represent a larger variation about the mean simply because the whole number are larger and most home inspectors won’t ever encounter a home at 47 pCi/l.

In both cases, the distribution is lognormal (the so-called W test is 0.9184); the precision is 0.9; the geometric standard deviation is 3.03, the W Test Percentage Point is 0.905; skew is -0.2854 and so on. In essence, the two data sets’ distributions are identical- Yet one raises howls and one wouldn’t.

So the reason I selected 47 pCi/l was simply “playing the numbers game” because it puts the lower anticipated acceptable value below the EPA farcical limit (but above zero) and the upper anticipated acceptable value at an apparently large number – but keeps all of the values to whole numbers.

The upshot is that when a HI receives a lab report that states 0.47 pCi/l, the stated precision is ludicrous; the answer that should be reported is that the true radon reading probably lies somewhere below 0.9 and above 0.02 – similarly, if the HI receives a lab report that states 47 pCi/l, the answer that should be given is that the true radon reading probably lies somewhere below 90 pCi/l and above 2 pCi/l. THAT is the point, and that really is the truth. People lie, numbers don’t. (Remember: Lies, damn lies, and statistics).

Just wanted to clarify –

PS: By the way, these posts are meant to provoke thought – not anger, and so humble apologies to any toes that get stepped upon. Actually, I participate in a variety of discussion fora – home inspectors, industrial hygiene fora, engineers, an environmental health forum and even a “secret” forensic forum open only to law enforcement guys. Whilst the context changes to suit the interests of the readers, but the message, the science, and the math stays the same: Where’s my coffee?

Cheers!
Caoimhín P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist and
President of Cranky Old Chemists Society
www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

Scott Patterson
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home inspection posted August 17, 2005 05:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Patterson   Click Here to Email Scott Patterson     Edit/Delete Message


Humm, I need a Readers Digest version!

Jerry Peck
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home inspection posted August 17, 2005 06:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jerry Peck   Click Here to Email Jerry Peck     Edit/Delete Message


Scott,

I suspect THAT WAS the Reader's Digest Condensed Version.

------------------
Jerry Peck
South Florida

Bruce Thomas
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home inspection posted August 17, 2005 06:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Scott,

That's what I've been trying to say all along, Thanks.

All

Here's my bottom line. I live and work in a regulated state. I have to obey the law or be decertified. I can disagree with EPA or my state all I want, it doesn't make any difference. That's why I serve of 3 AARST committees to rewrite the model protocols. When all of that work is done maybe it will filter down to state regulation or even the EPA.

A brilliant communicator is one who can take the complex and technical and make it understandable to the common person.

So just because you may disagree it doesn't mean the accepted is wrong!

Bruce

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Make it a great day!

Chad Fabry
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home inspection posted August 17, 2005 07:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Chad Fabry   Click Here to Email Chad Fabry     Edit/Delete Message


I'll make no pretenses at understanding anything but the math. Statistics have always intrigued me; the subsequent maleability of statistics and the manipulation of them to suit a purpose has been a hobby of sorts.

I'm not a mycologist, so I don't test for mold.
I'm not a nuclear physicist, so I don't test for radon.
I'm a student of building science, so I evaluate structures.

So far, this philosophy has served me well.

------------------
OK, I'm done for now, Chad Fabry
StructureSmart Home Inspection Rochester, NY
www.structuresmart.com

Mark Jones
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home inspection posted August 17, 2005 09:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mark Jones   Click Here to Email Mark Jones     Edit/Delete Message


Mr. Connell,
Thank you for your detailed reply. You appear to be a knowledgable scientist and scholar. You have provided us a valuable amount of food for thought, and sparked quite a debate on interesting subjects.
You and Jerry P. could make quite a team.
Respectfully,

------------------
Safe Haven Mark

steve stokes
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Posts: 2
From:winston-salem, nc
Registered: Apr 2004

home inspection posted August 18, 2005 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for steve stokes   Click Here to Email steve stokes     Edit/Delete Message


WOW! between vacation and server problems, I'm just getting back.
FWIW....the light bulb had no effect.
The tester was a CRM510(femto-tech)
The HVAC was turned on and the home dried out, of course the cat urine smell stayed, better weather arrived and the block wall suction was able to take care of the problem. But it sure stunk.

steve stokes

Bob Knauff
Member
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Posts: 1192
From:MN
Registered: May 2002

home inspection posted August 22, 2005 07:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Knauff   Click Here to Email Bob Knauff     Edit/Delete Message


Back from traveling and read with great interest all the postings here to date. Since I have little time now and also believe that at this point the radon issue being discussed here is akin to debating the merits of testing for mold (in that in the end it is a personal decision whether to particiapate or not), I will make this short (for me!).

Caoimhin said, "PS: By the way, these posts are meant to provoke thought – not anger..."

Very good! Couldn't agree more. That is exactly why we are all here, to share views and information and pass along new tools, techniques, etc. which will allow all of us to be better at our jobs and better serve the public. NO one here disputes that. Some readers here accept what is put forth some do not. That is as it shold be. I have yet to meet a man or woman in this business that hasn't at one time or another had one of those "ah ha!" experiences after learning some new information that changes the way they perform, after having done the thing they do for many years very well. But now, in light of the new information, they change their methods. It's the nature of the business and of course we MUST be willing and able to make those adjustments as needed.

I am not a professional race car driver but I drive a car. I am not a trained physician but I diagnose and medicate myself on occasion (no jokes here!), I am not an Industiral Hygienist or nuclear physicist but I measure for radon. I am certainly not a specialist in any of these or any number of other fields but I do have some trainng and experience in each. My point is, we HI's are required to be as knowledable as possible in many fields of construction and related areas yet we are not trained to the degree of a specialist in any given field and certainly do not have time to even approach becoming a specialist for any single one not to mention ALL of them. Given that, we are faced with choices every day as we gather new information. Keep believing what we now believe based on training and personal bias we have acquired along the way or change our views and opinions based on new and possibly more current information and carry on in the new direction from there.

I choose to test for radon based on training and personal beliefs, so far. Perhaps others could view it as a 50/50 issue. Testing for something believing that thing to be bad or testing for it believing (or knowing) it is not bad. If a thing like radon is universally known to not be a bad thing yet I choose to test for it, no more harm is done than to cause the client to part with a relativey few of their dollars and so I would simply be morally corrupt. If radon truly IS a very bad thing, a great service has been performed by measuring for it and dealing with it for the clinets welfare and best interest. The arguement seems to be whether radon is bad for us or not. Fine. Again, I'll let that debate rage in the professional circles that Caoimhin appears to travel in since I don't have that much time or money. Just as I'm perfectly happy to let the NEC folks hash out their issues and let me know the results so I can make the decision to act accordingly. I WILL however remain proactive enought check in every once in a while to see what progress has been made on the radon issue as well as any other areas required for doing home inspections properly and well.

One key element in my decision to test for radon is the fact that I have received formal training in radon measurement and mitigation. I did not form my opinions of the issue lightly with only information garnered from reading posts on a forum where anonymity is all too easy, or even from self study on the Internet. People specifically trained in that field were sought out and listened to in a formal training enviroment. After THAT, I formed my personal opinions on the issue and as such will continue to do radon measurement for clients if requested until such time as I find new information that I choose to accept as pertinent to the contrary. That's just me.

I now know 2 people who at least appear to be very knowledgeable on the subject who are opposed. Caoimhin and an oncologist whose home I did a radon test in for a client of mine. The doctor thought a person could "sit on a pile of the stuff (radon) and it wouldn't hurt them." as he put it. So be it. I have 2 votes against...I'll stay tuned.

Thanks for your effort and willingness to share your knowledge Caoimhin, keep up the good work, it is valuable!

------------------
Bob

Think Safety!

www.BeaconHomeInspections.com

Proudly serving the Twin Cities and areas surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota

[This message has been edited by Bob Knauff (edited August 22, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by Bob Knauff (edited August 22, 2005).]

Bruce Thomas
Member
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Posts: 242
From:Greensburg PA
Registered: Feb 2004

home inspection posted August 22, 2005 08:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bruce Thomas   Click Here to Email Bruce Thomas     Edit/Delete Message


Bob,

Very well put and I think an excelent attitude to have. (Glad you didn't have time to make it long )

Please check out www.cansar.org

My opinion after 11 years in commercial nuclear power and 15 years testing and mitigating radon is "WHY TAKE A RISK IF IT CAN BE REDUCED"

Bruce

------------------
Make it a great day!

Caoimhín P. Connell
New Member
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Posts: 12
From:Bailey, CO
Registered: Jul 2005

home inspection posted August 24, 2005 06:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Caoimhín P. Connell   Click Here to Email Caoimhín P. Connell     Edit/Delete Message


Mr. Thomas:

I agree with Mr. Knauff, and thank him for his kind words.

However, regarding your comment "WHY TAKE A RISK IF IT CAN BE REDUCED" begs the question of “At what cost?”

For example, if I say to you “For a mere $2,000.00 I can reduce your risk of being two pounds over weight for seventy years.” Will you give me the money? Are you so worried about the risk of carrying around two extra pounds for seventy years, that you will pay two grand? Any yet, that is precisely what people do who perform radon mitigation in their homes when a “radon” test comes back at 6 pCi/l.

The answer concerning controlling substances and risk is not as straight forward as most people would like you to believe (or would like it to be). Life is risky business. For example, speaking in general terms, it is generally given that an average North American citizen has a 1E-7 probability of not making it through the day (i.e. they have a one in ten million chance of death sometime between when they arise in the morning, and before it’s time to go to bed). Some carcinogens are controlled by regulation to estimated risks of 1E-6 others to 1E-5 and some even as high as 1E-4. Before OSHA changed the PEL for 1,3- butadiene, I demonstrated before an OSHA round table at the AIHA conference in Boston many years ago that even a decimal reduction in the PEL still resulted in a 100% risk of cancer.

On the flip side, some substances that convey no real reasonable risk at concentrations commonly encountered by the public (such as moulds, radon, saccharine, Alar, etc) are controlled in spite of any unambiguous evidence of any substantial risk at all. Others, due to erroneous linear dose/risk relationships, are erroneously assumed to be just as bad at low doses as they are at higher doses. Cigarettes for example, undeniably hazardous for one’s health at 20 per day, but which have a remarkably high NOEL, some estimates put it as high as 4 cigarettes per day for life (meaning that there is no appreciable risk – considering all cancers- if one smokes four fags a day).

Now, we haven’t even taken into account the risk/benefit issue. Why was Alar or saccharine vilified in the absence of any good toxicological rationale, and yet we are complacently willing to accept as a fact of life, the THOUSANDS of human lives lost to sober drivers who kill themselves and others in automobiles? Answer – “You toucha my car – I breaka you face” (That was an actual direct quote, not an ethical jab… besides… I’m Irish - I get to laugh at anyone). Consider the selfishness of risk and benefit in prohibiting starving nations from using DDT - to whose peril? Certainly not to the peril (or benefit) of the prohibitors!

Risk v. benefit. Several years ago, I used to teach a toxicology section that included the concept of risk. As part of the class, I used a very profound article from The Economist which compared the cost of mitigating risks, versus the actual risks that were mitigated. (If I recall correctly, it was “America’s Parasite Economy: The Papers that Ate AmericaTHE ECONOMIST, Oct. 10, 1992). What they showed, was that Americans had absolutely no interest in mitigating REAL risks. Rather, Americans were madly in love with mitigating PERCEIVED risks, especially emotional ones, with legislation that largely did little to save lives and whose costs were wildly disproportionate with the real risks involved. It made good, albeit, sad reading.

Real risk, safety, perceived risk, peril, threat, and exposure – these are not synonyms. But in this society, perceived risk and threat are more important than real risk and safety.

Just my thoughts...But then, again, I go willingly into buildings full of armed bad-guys intent on killing me just to make a couple of arrests… so what would I know about putting risk into perspective, eh? (Don’t tell my wife, she thinks it’s a “routine traffic stop”!)

Cheers! And enjoy the day!
(Ecclesiastes 5: 18,19)

Caoimhín P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG

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