Radon is a naturally occurring gas that forms when radioactive metals such as uranium and radium decay. Because it is formed in the ground, radon gas exists almost everywhere in small quantities.
While it’s true that most people breathe in small amounts of radon every day, radon gas can become dangerous to your health – particularly to your lungs – if large amounts enter your body. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), inhaling radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in the country for non-smokers. The problem? Radon gas is completely colorless, odorless and tasteless, meaning it’s impossible to know when or how much of it you may be breathing in.
Exposure to high levels of radon typically occurs indoors, where radon gas can easily become trapped, and elevated radon levels are more common than you might think. That’s why it’s important to have your home or business tested for radon, as professional radon gas testing is the only accurate way to determine its presence. If testing indicates high levels of radon, then radon mitigation is a critical next step to keep occupants safe.
Portland home and business owners need to be extra cautious about radon levels, as Portland has some of the highest radon concentrations in the state. But, are some areas within Portland at a higher risk of having an elevated radon concentration than others? Let’s take a deeper dive.
Why is Radon So Prevalent in Portland?
Radon levels are higher in some areas of the country than others, and Portland makes the shortlist. This variance can be attributed to the volume of uranium in the area and the types of rocks that are present, as some rocks have higher uranium content than others. Radon concentration can also depend on:
- The climate
- The porosity of the soil
- The amount of moisture present
- The time of year
For Portland, higher-than-average radon levels can be largely attributed to the Missoula floods that occurred thousands of years ago. Billions of gallons of water flowed from what is now western Montana into eastern Washington and down into Oregon’s Willamette Valley, carrying with it boulders and rocks containing uranium. Over time, that uranium decayed into radium, which is now present in Portland’s rocks, soil and groundwater. Radium is constantly generating radon gas, leading to higher levels in the area.
Portland Neighborhoods with The Highest Radon Levels
The Oregon Health Authority classifies the risk of indoor radon levels within the state as “high,” “moderate” or “low” based on results of indoor tests that test kit manufacturers have provided to the state. This classification system developed by the Oregon Radon Awareness Program takes into account four factors:
- The number of single-family residential locations that have a test result
- The maximum test result value from the area
- The average test result value from the area
- The percent of locations with a test result that was greater than or equal to 4 picocuries per liter (piC/L), which is the level at which the EPA recommends installing a radon mitigation system in your home or building
In Portland, 11 out of 33 zip codes (or one-third of the city) are currently classified as having an elevated risk for high indoor radon concentration, and another 18 zip codes are classified as having a moderate risk. Overall, northeastern Portland currently has the highest levels of radon.
The Portland neighborhoods with the highest radon concentrations include:
- Alameda Ridge
- Lemon Island
- McGuire Island
However, just because a neighborhood isn’t included on this list doesn’t mean that it’s in the clear. Radon levels can also vary from home to home, and they can fluctuate throughout the year. The Oregon Public Health Division recommends that all homes test for radon, regardless of the risk level assigned to the building’s geographic location.
Testing Your Home or Business
Radon, by nature, is unstable, meaning that radon levels can change quickly. This means that the radon test you had done when you first moved into your home may no longer be accurate, as a site with low radon levels one year can yield high levels the next. Because of this, it’s recommended to have a professional radon test done about every two years.
There are three types of radon tests that may be useful based on your situation:
- Short-term radon tests
- Long-term radon tests
- Continuous radon monitoring
Short-term radon tests are best for real estate transactions, as results can be delivered within as little as two days. Long-term tests take a few months to yield results, but they are generally much more accurate than short-term tests because they measure radon levels in your home over time, typically for about 90 days. This helps to account for fluctuations and provides a high-level view of your home’s average indoor radon concentration.
As the name suggests, continuous radon testing monitors radon levels in your home continually over a 48-hour period. These tests are far more accurate than short-term tests but retain the benefit of receiving results within a few days. Continuous radon tests require special equipment and training to provide accurate results.
Radon can be detrimental to your health, but radon testing and mitigation can bring you peace of mind. These tools make it easy to find out whether the radon concentration in your home or office is considered high and provide you with ways to control the amount of radon gas that is present.
Alpha Environmental offers both radon testing and radon mitigation in the Portland area, and our team of professionals has the equipment and expertise needed to best fit your needs. Contact us today online or at 503-292-5346 to schedule radon testing for your home or business.