Just curious - many locals (per codes) require passive radon systems be installed in new construction and even in certain remodels. There are plenty of "this isn't needed" thoughts out there like this one found here on HEP - Radon Truth vs Myth

So do you think radon is just a scare or passive systems are a good idea or...

On the flip side for those that do remodels, energy audits, etc... do you recommend or require that testing is done? 

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I did radon testing for 10 years as a home inspector, and in order to be certified to perform the testing I was required to take a 40-hour course on radon, soup-to-nuts, including the effects and statistics on health.  Before the learning process I was on the fence also, but knowing the details I am now a believer.  Radon levels vary from area to area, but each building should be evaluated on its own.  So, my opinion on the passive systems is that where the average is above the action level it should be done on new homes.  I now perform audits as part of my offerings, and when I recommend tightening the home I also recommend radon testing, or re-testing if there's a system in place.  I'm in an area where the average is high.  

One interesting tidbit, the watches that were made with truly glow-in-the-dark details way back then were hand painted with radium, one of the "products" of uranium decay.  The painters apparently wet their brushes regularly by licking them to get a fine line, and every person who did that job contracted mouth cancer.

I started to read the other recent thread on radon, it got WAAY to wordy (purposely?) and convoluted, and I don't have time to read that many words, let alone digest the meaning, just for edification.  It appears some tend to attribute absolute truth based upon the number of words in a treatise.  The way of the litigious society?

I hear you on the wordy part & am reminded of the saying of drown them in paper for discovery, dazzle them with..., etc... As for wording, I call BS on some of the bogus arguments - sorry but not all radiation is the same & the history being thrown about seems quiet a bit off - like decades off & maybe even by centuries. 

Thanks also for the history tidbit on the watches, I never knew that one.

So far it appears we have two for Passive & Testing Good with one saying Bogus - hopefully we can get some more pitching in

I agree with Stan, the tiered rather than linear structure of this BB can get convoluted, confusing and frustrating when there are a lot of responses and can make for difficult reading.

Here's the key takeaway for me, Caoimhín's comment on risk:

Reply by Caoimhin P Connell on February 3, 2016 at 8:23am

Good morning, Tom –

You raise two very good points: 

Risk is a number, and that number is never “zero.”  Risk is merely a probability of an occurrence.  As such, each human in the US and Canada have a risk (probability) of 1E-7 of not living through this day.  That is, the total combined causes of death (crime, motor vehicle accidents, disease, age, etc) means that any randomly selected human has a 1 in 10 million chance of dying today.  Now, 1E-7 is a small number (0.0000001), but it is not “zero.”  As such, there is never anything as “no risk.” 

Consider the probability (risk) of getting hit by a meteor – it was reported that 1,000 people were injured on Feb. 15, 2013 around Chelyabinsk, Russia when a 7,000 ton meteor exploded on entry.  Although I have not double checked the reference, it is reported that Phil Plait (a.k.a., “The Bad Astronomer”) calculated a risk of getting hit by a meteor was 1 in 700,000 (which is 1.4E-6)… again a small number but not zero.  Now could you reduce the risk even further by wearing a steel hat and armor plate whenever you go outside?   Could you reduce the risk even further by never going outside? Could you reduce the risk even further by living 4km deep within the Mponeng gold mine?  Of course you could – but why would you, just to reduce the risk of getting hit.

Whereas risk is objective, then the number is low enough, we encounter a subjective threshold called “safety.”    That is, “safety” is the attainment of an acceptable level of risk.  Risk is objective, and safety is the irrational acceptance of a specified level of risk. 

So, when someone wants to install a “radon mitigation system” to avoid the measly 225mrem/year of radiation, I would pose to them the following question:  “Just how safe do you want to be?”  And why, then, if you are worried about radon in your home, are you willing to drive to the grocery store and get milk (which carries five times more risk of death than radon in a home).  Or indeed, why are you willing to live in South Carolina, instead of Tennessee, since living in SC carries ten times more risk of death than living in Tennessee.  Why are you going to spend $2K dollars installing a radon mitigation system in your home, but you are doing nothing about removing the ambient benzene form your home, that carries far greater risk of cancer than does radon?  What about the 100 mrem you are about to receive by flying out to California to see your great Aunt  Agatha? 

The answer lies in “fear.”  People don’t fear driving to the store, because it’s a familiar risk – even though every one of us has driven by numerous horrific motor vehicle accidents (MVA), and each of us has personally seen the blood and guts and death, and probably personally know someone who has been killed in a MVA, yet probably none of us has see someone who was killed by radon – Similarly, one chooses to live in South Carolina or Georgia because those are nice places, and the fact that living in those states versus living in Nebraska, or Oklahoma increases the risk of death ten times greater than radon never enters people’s minds.  Why?  Answer: Awareness.  The general public has been unnecessarily frightened out of their wits with irresponsible statements from various government entities wherein the risks are neither put into perspective and are not based on science. 

If 4 pCi/l of PAEC (radon) results in a significant risk because a radioactive disintegration may occur at a cellular level, then consider this:  If you are an average US adult, you have about 150 grams of potassium in your body right now. As you sit and read this post, you are irradiating about 4,400 Bq (120,000 pCi) of just the K40, (that equates to about 4,400 radioactive disintegrations per second).  And that’s just from the potassium! And that occurs in your body each second you live.)   At least 98 % of those disintegrations take place within body cells, and are potentially capable of altering the cell's DNA.  So why aren’t you dead from cancer – indeed, why didn’t you die from cancer before the age of 2?  Our own bodies irradiate us with ionizing radiation, at a rate of one fifth of that the average US citizen receives from radon (when we express the exposure as “dose” in mrems per year).

Answer – because, as of today, February 3, 2016, there has not been a single valid study ever performed on the face of the earth, devoid of confounders and unsupportable assumptions that has ever shown with confidence that radon, as typically encountered in homes increases the risk by an single iota.  Indeed, most of the legitimate epidemiological studies performed thus far, show that the cancer rates in homes with low levels of radon are LOWER than the cancer rates in homes with no detectable levels of radon.   To be clear, the majority of legitimate studies show that, at levels typically encountered in homes, as the radon concentrations go up, cancer rates go DOWN. 

However, whether this is a statistical anomaly or not, I don’t care because either way, we are dealing with risks that are vanishingly small, and entirely insignificant, even if they are real. 

So, as I sit here in my office in Bailey, Colorado, writing this post, I think of the poor souls in Denver where the cosmic radiation pours down some 2,000,000,000,000,000,000 high energy protons (each greater than one billion eVs) every second, and are receiving about 0.02 mrem every HOUR!  Do I gasp at the fact that my office is at 9,000 feet elevation where my hourly dose may be as high as 0.04 mrem/hour?  No. I don’t gasp – Indeed, later today, I will drive about 125 miles which will swamp the risk of NORMs in my environment.  That’s risky.  Indeed in my case, I also happen to be part-time police officer, and  so later today I will don a ballistic vest, holster a gun and face the world as it presents itself to me.  Should I worry about radon as I drive around in a marked patrol car?   Probably not; currently I am much more concerned about the spider on the ceiling directly above me – now THAT’s frightening! But am I "safe"?



Caoimhín P. Connell


I also found this interesting post by Tom Macy - http://bit.ly/radonhistory 


But what of the miners?

They really died of lung cancer, we are told.

The most likely explanation for this entire scenario goes something like this:

1. The mining company is negligent in providing the miners with adequate breathing equipment

2. The miners breathe the mining dust containing at least 14 different radioactive elements

3. The miners get sick and die

4. The company seeks a way of avoiding any liability for the problem and hires someone to invent a cover story -- it is very successful; they can hardly be held responsible for something that occurs naturally

5. The story is picked up by the American Tobacco Institute which is looking for an alternate explanation for the causes of lung cancer in smokers

6. The ATI provides funds for research, hoping to avoid liability, as did the mining company

7. The ploy did not work, but misguided researchers confused laboratory data from the research by applying it to field conditions to make it appear that radon is a major health hazard.

8. The radon abatement industry is born!

This is a very brief treatment of a complicated subject. There is obviously much more that could be said about it that space limitations do not permit. This writer recommends that each reader do a little research of his/her own. You may be surprised at the amount of contradictory information that is available.


I have not heard of any local codes requiring passive systems yet in my region (North Florida), but there are some builders adding the components to the build minus a fan. Installing the pipe(s) during construction before the slab is poured is brilliant. You can also design interior components around the pipe to hide it better. These options are more expensive to install retroactively. If the home turns out to have elevated levels, all that is needed is the fan. Pretty smart if you ask me.

Thomas Ailstock

Certified Home Inspector #HI9155

In a new build, seems like a good idea to add the basic components.


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