Radon in well water often presents a surprise to homeowners when discovered. As radon in water is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, 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. Radon in well water is not a problem until the gas escapes the water as it enters your home through faucets, showers, bathtubs, washing machines, etc. To remove radon in well water, a system designed to agitate the radon gas out of the water then safely vent it to outside of the home is the preferred approach. Radon remediation systems are installed in the basement at the water’s point of entry into the home. Radon in well water should be tested for in private wells. (for more information, see radon epa..)
Radon in Well Water Contaminant Action Levels (in pCi/L as of 7/7/2016)
Massachusetts = 10,000 pico curries/liter New Hampshire = 2,000 ” “
Maine = 4,000 ” ” Rhode Island = 4,000 ” “
Any home may have a radon problem from such sources as:
1. Cracks in walls
2. Cracks in solid floors
3. Construction joints
4. Gaps in suspended floors
5. Gaps in service pipes
6. Spaces inside walls
7. In your water supply as gas is released into the air in the home.
RADON STUDIES, RISKS & OTHER CONCERNS
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 non-smokers.
Cigarette smokers have eight times the risk from radon as non-smokers. Therefore, cigarette smokers in particular, should keep their exposure to radon as low as possible. If the home 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.
Testing for radon in well water can be a little tricky. There can be absolutely no air bubbles in the water sample container and the sample should be tested within 24 hours of the time the sample was pulled. A water treatment professional can assist you in this process and also help you analyze the lab test results.