You found the perfect home. It’s gorgeous, energy efficient, in a great neighborhood and well within your budget. You wonder to yourself, “why is this perfect home still on the market?” Then you read the disclosures. Your perfect pad has a serious radon problem.
Radon and You: 7 Things to Know
Radon is a reasonably common problem in homes, so if you come across a house that you absolutely adore, you’re not even remotely out of luck. Instead, you may reap the benefits of someone else’s lack of information about the gas. Here are seven things to know if you’re considering a home with a radon problem:
Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t smell it, see it or taste it, but it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer anyway. Of course, it doesn’t go straight to cancer right away, but exposure over time will increase the likelihood of lung cancer in the home’s occupants if it’s left alone.
Testing for radon is simple. You can choose to perform a short-term, long-term or continuous test for radon levels in a building. The short-term tests are active charcoal-based and only take about a week to complete. These are the kind that are typically used by radon inspectors.
Radon is everywhere. Radon occurs naturally in the environment as a result of the breakdown of radioactive elements, such as uranium. Because of that, it’s literally everywhere, but typically in very small amounts. It doesn’t become a problem until you’re exposed to high concentrations of the gas.
Smokers are at higher risk of radon-related lung cancer. A 4pCi/L, the level at which radon mitigation is typically recommended, non-smokers have about the same risk of cancer as they do of dying in a car crash, that’s about 7 in 1,000 people. Smokers, on the other hand, are at a risk five times that of dying in a wreck and 62 out of 1,000 may develop lung cancer.
You can mitigate radon in any home. With enough money and effort, any home can become a low radon zone. One in 15 homes has an unacceptably high radon level, which is why it’s so important to test yours. Note to home buyers: this is one of those things you can ask the seller to do prior to your occupancy.
DIY is possible for radon control. Only attempt it if you’re intimately familiar with your home’s construction methods, radon gas and sampling procedures. A bad DIY radon job isn’t like a bad paint job — incorrect processes can result in higher radon levels than before.
It’s possible that your house itself is causing your radon levels to be high. Certain building materials that happen to be almost everywhere in your home, like drywall and concrete, tend to radiate radon in very low levels. Once in a while, though, the radon coming out of the walls is more than just a little bit. In this case, you definitely need an expert to guide the mitigation.
Just because radon is everywhere doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Radon mitigation systems are very good at removing large amounts of radon from any home. Most work by literally sucking the radon right out of the crawlspace or from underneath a poured concrete slab like what you’d find in a basement.
Slabs must be sealed and barriers installed in crawl spaces to ensure that the radon has no place to go but up and out the vacuum system. Once released into the air above your home, it’s no longer a threat and you can breathe deeply once again.
If you need a radon vacuum, make sure yours comes with a continuous monitoring system as well. It might cost a little bit extra, but you’ll know exactly if or when radon levels are unacceptable. Since levels vary throughout the year, this is a good investment in your future.