The EPA has deemed January as Radon Action Month, they state radon is an issue in 1 out of 6 homes in the United States. Radon isn’t a discussion point in most careers, but it should be for Realtors®. When going over professional services and inspections with my clients I know a radon test will need a bit more explaining than say a termite inspection. This is a breakdown on radon, and why testing for it is worth the money.
I am not a scientist, and my explanation of radon is rudimentary, but here goes. Traces of uranium can be found in rocks, sediment, and soil under our homes. This uranium will breakdown in a process known as radioactive decay. The decaying uranium will form into other elements, one of which is radon. When the radon continues this decaying process it becomes an odorless radioactive gas in the form of alpha particles. The particles can enter through basement walls, slab foundation, or even a crawlspace. It can also enter through basement drains, wall cavities, and tiny gaps around water or gas fittings, and more. Once in a home this is when it could become harmful.
How harmful? Per the CDC website: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General’s office estimate radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. When you breathe in radon, radioactive particles from radon gas can get trapped in your lungs. Over time, these radioactive particles increase the risk of lung cancer. It may take years before health problems appear.”
So, how can a home be tested? In my region many licensed home inspectors are also licensed to perform radon tests. They set up computerized equipment in the property and leave it for several days. The equipment does constant readings, and gives an overall view of radon in the home. The fee is generally around $100.
Radon levels are measured in picocuries per liter, or pCi/L. Levels of 4 pCi/L or higher are considered hazardous, while under 4 pCi/L is considered acceptable. However, the EPA stated that any radon that is present could cause an issue, but it is difficult to reduce levels below 2 pCi/L even with treatment. (Note: a picocurie is a common unit for measuring amounts of radioactivity).
The installation of a radon mitigation system by a remediation specialist can be the answer. In every instance of a higher than normal test result we, my buyer and I, have asked the seller to have a licensed specialist install a radon mitigation system. The least expensive was $1,100 and the highest was $1,500. The EPA states the average across the United States if $1,200.
Why do most sellers agree to install the system? First, because they believe it is the right thing to do, but also because it is now a material fact (at least in my state). Meaning should the buyer terminate the contract for any reason, the radon issue will have to be disclosed to all future buyers. What if the seller doesn’t have an extra $1,500 during the selling process? Funds can be held from closing proceeds to have the system installed after closing, or whatever is a legal avenue in the region.
This is a very basic explanation about what radon is, and doesn’t begin to cover the extent of its existence or health issues it may cause. Google is a great resource to learn more, but here are a few links on the EPA site.