Years ago, thirteen to be exact, I was buying a seven year old home and I remember my real estate agent telling me I needed to have a radon test done. One factor was two of my children would be living in the bedrooms in the basement. I need to have it tested for what? What was radon and why did it matter? Ends up it is pretty common in some areas of the country, especially in Colorado, and it can be pretty harmful...deadly, in fact I had no idea at the time! Although radon is more commonly known about these days, many people still are confused as to what it is and the harm it can cause.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in almost all soils. It usually moves up through the ground, into the air, and on up into your home through cracks and other holes in your foundation. Your home traps radon inside causing it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem and it doesn't really matter if it is a new home, well-sealed, or does not have a basement.
Radon usually comes from soil gas but it sometimes can enter your home through well water (see www.epa.gov/radon/rnwater.html). Building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves but it can happen in a small number of cases.
I won't bore you with too many scientific details but it is an extremely toxic, colorless gas that can be condensed to a transparent liquid and to an opaque, glowing solid. It is derived from the radioactive decay of radium and is used in cancer treatment, as a tracer in leak detection, and in radiography.
So why does it matter?
Radon is the second leading overall cause of lung cancer and, according to the EPA, is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. That is some pretty scary stuff! Radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year and of those, about 2900 are non-smokers. That means this is not something you can just ignore especially consider it is something caused in your home! (https://www.epa.gov/radon/health-risk-radon#head)
The DOs with regard to radon
1. Get a radon test done. Whether you are buying a new or old home or just staying in your current home, it is best do a radon test. The test is non-invasive and is usually a small testing unit set up on a tri-pod in the lowest part of your home. Although you can go in and out of your doors, for the several days the indicator is in your home, you should not leave doors and windows open because they can affect readings making them inaccurate.
2. Seal cracks and other openings. This is a start to reducing radon, but according to the EPA, merely sealing, although it can limit radon entry, should not be you only method of lowering radon levels.
3. Have a mitigation system installed. You do not need to make major changes to your home and can sometimes be put into crawl spaces. The system prevents radon gas from entering the home from below the concrete floor and from outside the foundation. Radon mitigation contractors would be the best ones to determine the best method and place to install the system.
4. Have your home retested . Once the system is installed, but sure to have your home retested to make sure it is doing its job. Be sure to retest your home every few years as levels can change and additional measures may be needed to mitigate its entrance into your home.
If you would like any additional information on radon, home inspection items, and other real estate questions, please contact me and we can talk in more detail and buy or sell your castle.
I am a real estate broker, attorney and mediator. I am blogging from my own ideas and perspective. Although I am a licensed attorney, these are not intended to be legal advise.