Let's Explore the Ins and Outs of Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless, and colorless radioactive gas that can be found in the atmosphere. It is a byproduct of the decomposition of elements like uranium in the ground. When radon seeps into a home and becomes trapped, it can lead to elevated levels that are higher than what we typically breathe in the outside air. Prolonged exposure to these elevated levels can increase the risk of lung cancer, making radon the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. 

How do you determine if your home has elevated radon levels? A radon test is necessary. It's important to note that you cannot rely on the assumption that your home is not in a radon "hot spot" or that your neighbor's home has tested below the EPA action limit. 

The EPA recommends taking remediation action if the radon level measures at 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or higher. 

However, they also suggest considering remediation between 2.0 and 4 pCi/L. Standards for radon levels vary worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends remediation at 2.7 pCi/L (or 100 Bq/m3). In Canada, the recommended action level was reduced to 200 Bq/m3 (about 5.4 pCi/L) from 800 Bq/m3 (about 21.6 pCi/L) in 2007, which is still higher than the EPA level. 

Who conducts a radon test?

  • You can purchase testing kits from home improvement stores or online. 
  • You can hire a professional radon inspector to set up a measuring device in your home. The cost for a professional test is typically around $150. It's important to place the test kit in the lowest level of your home for a specific period of time, depending on the type of device used. 

Contrary to popular belief, radon can be present in elevated levels in any type of home, even if it doesn't have a basement. Since radon levels can fluctuate over time, the EPA recommends re-testing your home every 2 years. 

January is considered Radon Action Month because winter is believed to be the best time to test for radon. If your home has elevated radon levels, the good news is that remediation is relatively simple, highly effective, and not excessively expensive. A typical remediation system involves installing a pipe in the foundation floor with a fan inside. The pipe runs to the exterior and extends above the roof line. The fan pulls the gases from under the foundation and vents them outside, preventing them from accumulating inside the home. According to the EPA, various remediation systems can reduce radon levels by 50 to 99%. Other measures, such as sealing cracks in the foundation floor/walls and improving ventilation, can also help reduce radon levels. 

The cost of installing a radon remediation system can vary depending on factors such as the type of foundation your home has (basement, slab, crawl space), the size of your home, any specific complexities, and the contractor you choose. 

In our experience the average cost is around $1,400 but that doesn’t include  those with complex designs. 

When it comes to purchasing a home, it's worth considering testing for radon. In DC, MD, and VA, the standard sales contracts include an option to include a radon contingency. If the contingency is included, the buyer has the right to test for radon at their own expense. If the results show elevated levels above the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L, the buyer may have the option to request the seller to install a remediation system and re-test to ensure its effectiveness at the seller's expense if it’s a contingency in your contract. 

Alternatively, the buyer can ask for a credit to cover the cost of installing a system after taking ownership, or cover the cost and schedule it after settlement. Some buyers may choose to forgo the contingency and conduct a test after taking ownership, as the remediation methods are effective, accessible, and not excessively expensive. We recommend adding the contingency to the offer if it’s important for you to know and to have it remediated before settlement. This is a decision you get to make and it’s very important to some buyers. 

We hope this information is helpful to you. If you have any further questions or need assistance in finding inspectors or radon mitigation contractors, we’re here to help.

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