The Basics of Water and Radon Tests
As a homeowner, there are a few tests for your home that you may be considering, but perhaps you don’t understand the benefits. The two most common are for water quality and for radon gas, which determine if your home’s water and air are as safe as they appear to be.
Are these must-do tests? No - it is up to you. But it is wise to arrange to get your well tested - and treated if needed - to eliminate any risk it could pose to your family. And it is recommended by the EPA to test your home for radon so you can mitigate air quality issues and eliminate the health risks the gas can cause.
It pays to understand what each test will tell you before you decide whether to conduct them.
Contamination can occur through the underground channels that feed well water, so testing is a wise choice for any homeowner. Scientifically speaking, water is considered to be "contaminated" when it contains harmful or objectionable substances which may be dissolved, suspended or biological.
What could be in the water, especially a private well? Well water can dissolve metals from pipes and plumbing fixtures, which may contain lead, copper, iron, etc. Gases and dusts from the atmosphere and any other water-soluble compounds may also be dissolved by water as they come in contact with it.
Testing your water will give you a detailed report on what is found to be outside of safe limits and what is elevated but within safety guidelines. Numerous contaminants are colorless, tasteless and odorless, which leads people to believe they have safe drinking water. But the Center for Disease Control (CDC) receives more than 4,000 cases reported each year where illnesses can be directly linked to drinking water.
Testing your water will tell you what those contaminants are and how you might protect your family from their associated risks – for example, after testing it may be determined that adding a filtration system would be beneficial.
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground, through cracks and other holes in the foundation, and into the air in your home. It can also enter your home through well water.
You cannot see, smell, or taste radon, but it still may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer.
Testing the air for radon is the only way to determine if there is an issue, and if you find that you have high radon levels there are ways to fix the problem - even if very high levels are discovered.
You can buy canister tests at most home improvement stores, or you may hire a professional to conduct tests and also install a radon-reduction system if unacceptable levels are discovered.
Whichever way you test, make sure that the test is done in the lowest level of the home that you are going to use as living space, whether it is finished or unfinished. Also, if your home is new construction, ask if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested.
In a nutshell
Ultimately, contaminated water and high radon levels can happen anywhere, and it is fairly simple to either purchase a canister test for radon or hire a professional to test your water. If you do find contamination, mitigation solutions tend to be simple as well – for water, a filtration system typically solves the problem, and the cost of a radon mitigation system is about the same as for other common home repairs.
Educating yourself about water and radon tests and available solutions can help you make a wise decision about your home – and provide you peace of mind about what is in the air your family is breathing and the water they are drinking.
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