Radon in water becomes a problem when the gas escapes the water as it enters your home through faucets, showers, bathtubs and washing machines. As radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless element, the need for a water test is all the more critical. Radon is a radioactive gas which comes from the natural decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. To remove radon from well water, a properly designed system that agitates the radon gas out of the water then vents it safely outside of the home is a proven, effective approach to correcting this problem.
Your home may trap radon inside where it can build up in concentration. Any home may have a radon in water or radon in air problem; new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation, even ones you cannot see. It can also get into your home through well water when you turn on your shower and other water using points inside your home. The EPA recommended action level for remediation is 4,000 pico curries per liter as of this writing, with indications that this level may be reduced. See below for state guidelines. (for more information on radon, see the link: Radon in Massachusetts)
State Radon Guideline Levels (in pCi/L); (as of 7/7/2020)
Massachusetts = 10,000 pico curries/liter Maine = 4,000 ” “
Rhode Island = 4,000 ” ” New Hampshire = 2,000 ” “
EPA = 4,000 ” “
Any home may have a radon problem from such sources as:
1. Cracks in solid floors
2. Cracks in walls
3. Construction joints
4. Gaps in service pipes
5. Gaps in suspended floors
6. Spaces within walls
7. Your water supply when gas is released into the air in the home
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Radiation Control Program performed a 1988 study in conjunction with the EPA. The data gathered from that study estimates that 1 out of 4 homes may have levels above the 4.0 Pico curries/L in air action level. However, the only way to know if your home has a problem is to perform a test.
Radon is a Class A carcinogen and the second leading cause of lung cancer. The increased risk of developing lung cancer from radon is directly related to the concentration of radon and the length of time that a person is exposed to it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are between 5,000 and 30,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths each year. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, according to EPA.
Smokers have eight times the risk from radon as non-smokers. Cigarette smokers, in particular, should keep their exposure to radon as low as possible. If the house was tested in an infrequently used basement, it may have measured a radon level that is higher than the actual level you are exposed to, spending most of your time upstairs. People with young children should be more concerned with the possible consequences of radon exposure 20 years from now than someone in their late sixties or seventies. Families with a hereditary predisposition of cancer should be more concerned about radon exposure than families who don’t have any history of cancer.
Although no level of radon in water or air is considered absolutely safe, the USEPA action level for radon is 4.0 picocuries per liter of AIR (pCi/L). (pCi/l= picocuries per liter, the most common method of reporting radon levels. A pico Curie is 0.000,000,000,001 (one-trillionth) of a Curie, an international measurement unit of radioactivity. One pCi/l means that in one liter of air there will be 2.2 radioactive disintegrations each minute. For example, at 4 pCi/l there will be approximately 12,672 radioactive disintegrations in one liter of air, during a 24-hour period.)
The risk of developing lung cancer at 4.0 pCi/L in AIR is estimated at about 7 lung cancer deaths per 1000 persons, which is why the USEPA and IEMA recommend reducing your radon level if the concentration is 4.0 pCi/L or more.
In summary, radon gas can be safely and effectively removed from water before it enters your home or building. A proper water sample, test at a certified lab and analysis will determine if a system is needed.