Schedule now and get our complete home inspection services!
Radon is a cancer causing, radioactive gas. It comes from a natural breakdown of uranium in the soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks, expansion joints and other holes in the foundation. I have never heard of radon. Is it really that dangerous? 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. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
Radon is regarded as a Group A carcinogen; that is, it is known to cause cancer in humans with prolonged exposure. It has been shown in carefully controlled studies on animals, and on hard-rock miners, and most recently confirmed in residential case-control studies, that the effects of radon gas can significantly increase the potential of lung cancer. The United States Environmental Protection Agency and Surgeon General recommend that people not have longterm exposures in excess of 4.0 pico Curies per liter (pCi/L). The EPA estimates that radon causes thousands of cancer deaths in the U.S. each year. Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPAs 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). The number of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions 1999-2001 National Center Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2002 National Safety Council Reports.
Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4pCi/L or more). Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state. Contact your state radon office for more information about radon in your area. The EPA recommends fixing your home if the results of one long-term test or the average of two short-term tests show radon levels of 4pCi/L or higher. With todays technology, radon levels in most homes can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below. You may also want to consider fixing if the level is between 2 and 4 pCi/L.
What type of tests are available? The most common type of radon testing devices are passive devices. Passive radon testing devices do not need power to function. These include short term devices such as charcoal canisters and long term devices such as alpha-track detectors. Both short and long term testing devices are generally inexpensive. A short-term test remains in your home for 2 days to 90 days, whereas a long-term test remains in your home for more than 90 days. All radon tests should be taken for a minimum of 48 hours. A short-term test will yield faster results, but a long-term test will give a better understanding of your homes year-round average radon level. Types of Tests: The type of test you deploy may depend on the ultimate objective of the occupant. A short term test will provide information about the potential for radon in a home. A long term test is better able to predict the risk of exposure over a longer period of time. A long term test will provide results with a big picture risk of exposure over a longer period of time factoring in many conditions that can impact your actual test result such as wind events, air temperatures, winter conditions and open windows. How does Radon enter your home? Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Common ways for radon to enter your home are as follows:
The EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market and, if necessary, lower your radon levels. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point. A potential buyer may ask for a new test, especially if: 1) The last test is not recent, e.g. within two years; 2) You have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or 3) The buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in; 4) State or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.
If a properly performed test indicates an elevated level of radon in the home you wish to purchase, it is highly possible other homes in the same area will have elevated radon. So, if you like the house, consider taking a reasoned approach that will confirm levels and reduce the radon. Perhaps the best news about radon is that radon can be reduced, either before you buy the home, or after you buy it and move in. Caution to buyer: If you want to insure that the radon mitigation system is installed to your standards you may consider overseeing the work yourself. A Seller would have incentive to look closer at cost than quality and in certain situations may make decisions that would differ from your decision. Radon testing is simple. Here is a common scenario for potential homebuyers: 1. Find the house you want to buy 2. As part of the home inspection process, request a short-term radon test, using a qualified radon measurement professional. Your home inspector may or may not be qualified to conduct radon testing. 3. If the short-term test result is 4.0 pCi/L or higher, then consider asking the seller to fix it, or consider purchasing the home and performing a long-term test to determine what the actual exposure is. 4. Once you decide to reduce the radon in the house, seek bids from qualified contractors who are willing to guarantee and warranty results. 5. Use bids from contractors to either fix the home prior to moving in, or after you take possession. Bids can be used as a basis for negotiations or even establishing escrow funds that can be used to mitigate the house once elevated levels have been confirmed. Of all the problems a house may have, radon is one of the easiest to identify and fix!
The EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you consider buying. Ask the seller for any and all previous radon test results. If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for any information they have about the system. If the home has already been tested for radon If you are thinking of buying a home, you may decide to accept an earlier test result from the seller or ask the seller for a new test to be conducted by a National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) qualified radon tester.
Before you accept the sellers test, you should determine the following:
Yes. Installing a passive system during construction has several advantages:
If you have confirmed that your home has elevated radon levels 4 pico curies per liter (pCi/L) or higher you will need to complete the following: 1. Select a qualified radon mitigation contractor to reduce the radon levels in your home 2. Determine an appropriate radon reduction method with your contractor 3. Have the appropriate radon reduction system installed 4. Perform post mitigation testing to verify the radon levels have been effectively reduced 5. Maintain your radon reduction system and inspect the system monitor periodically
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) LINKS
Citizen’s Guide to Radon
Consumer Guide to Radon Reduction
Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon
Physician’s Guide to Radon
EPA Radon Publications
Radon in Schools
Radon Guide for Tenants