To Test Your Home For Radon

On February 02, 2019

To Test Your Home For Radon

Radon is a tasteless, colorless, and odorless gas that comes from the natural breakdown of radioactive uranium in the ground. Extension Water Resources Coordinator Bryan Swistock explains it can be found in indoor air and also in drinking water.

Radon gas most often enters homes through cracks and holes in the basement foundation and floor. In some cases, radon can also enter by escaping from drinking water that enters the home from a private water well during showering, washing dishes and cooking. Regardless of the source, breathing radon gas increases the risk of lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths.

January was National Radon Action Month, so this is a good time to test your home if you haven’t done so already. Start with an inexpensive indoor air test available through “do-it-yourself” kits or qualified radon testing companies. These tests involve placing a radon-detecting device in the building for a few days to a few months. Radon in the air is measured in “picocuries per liter of air” or “pCi/L.” Indoor air radon levels above 4 pCi/L are considered unsafe and approximately 40% of homes in Pennsylvania exceed this standard. A common way to fix, or mitigate, an indoor air radon problem involves a vent pipe system and a fan. This system sucks radon from the ground below the building and vents it outside. Implementing this system doesn’t require major changes to building, but it does require technical knowledge and special skills. Your state radon office can help you locate qualified or state certified radon contractors in your area. They can study the problem within your building and determine the best treatment option for the situation.

In addition to indoor air testing, homeowners with a private drinking water well may want to test their water for radon through a state accredited water testing laboratory. If your water is found to contain radon, it can be mitigated by installing a point-of-entry treatment that will remove radon from all the water entering your home. 

One method for removing radon from water is a granular activated carbon (GAC) unit. Although these units come in a variety of models, types and sizes, they all follow the same principle for removal. For radon removal, GAC units are constructed of a fiberglass tank containing granular activated carbon–a fine material that traps and holds the radon. Because of the carbon’s fine particle size, it may easily clog with sediments or other contaminants present in the water. Some GAC units come with a special backwashing feature for removing sediment. The backwash feature, however, may eventually reduce the effectiveness of the carbon to remove radon. Elimination of the sediment source or a sediment filter placed ahead of the GAC tank is the best protection against clogging.

Another treatment method uses a device that aerates that water and removes the radon gas by releasing it to the air outside the home.

For more information on radon and testing, National Radon Action Month, or to find your state radon office, please visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s radon website: 

For more specifics on testing and treatment of radon in water, consult that Penn State Extension article entitled Reducing Radon in Drinking Water:

To Learn Grain Marketing Skills

Farmers experienced tight grain markets in 2018, making it especially important to ensure that they’re getting the best possible prices in 2019.  To help sellers put together a winning grain-marketing game plan, Penn State Extension is offering a workshop designed to enhance one’s grain-marketing confidence and skills. The courses, will be held in Towanda and Ebensburg on February 7th and 8th, respectively.  Extension Agronomist Zach Larson explains these events offer practical, easy-to-execute advice to help farmers secure a good average price for their crop.

“Over the course of their career, a farmer may have only 30 crops to sell,” says John Berry, Penn State Extension. “That doesn’t leave much room for learning-curve errors. We designed these courses to give farmers a chance to practice their marketing skills in a no-risk environment.”

In these lively workshops, developed by the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management, participants get a greater understanding of seasonal grain prices and how crop insurance can be a part of their grain-marketing strategies and will begin to develop a grain-marketing plan for their farm. As part of the workshops, attendees simulate a year of grain-marketing decisions, choosing whether to purchase crop insurance and forward contract their grain. They see the results of their decisions, not just for one year, but also against 15 years of actual market prices.

“Farmers go to great lengths developing production plans for their crops, but we tend to plan less on how to get a good price for the resulting grain,” Berry notes. “In this workshop, we give farmers an opportunity to develop a marketing plan and practice its implementation, using actual daily market prices.”

The Bradford and Cambria workshops will be held in Towanda and Ebensburg, respectively, with both starting at 10:30 am.  Registration at each event is $65 for the first farm member and $45 for each additional member from the same business, and lunch is included.  For registration or additional information please visit the What is Your Pre-Harvest Marketing Strategy website  ( or call 1-877-345-0691. 

Quote Of The Week: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” Edith Sitwell