Most people don't think about radon until they buy or sell their home. For many of my clients, I’m the first one to explain what radon is and how it affects the home sale process. In the spirit of not letting that happen as much, Let's deal with some myths and facts about radon. I strongly recommend that you check out the EPA's site for more information on Radon basics, the link is below.
Statement:Radon Gas Levels of Zero are Achievable in my Home.
This is a Myth. There's really no practical way to achieve this on purpose. Radon is a common, naturally occurring gas, and it exists in the outside air as well, in low levels. So, its everywhere. But the EPA does recommend that inside levels not exceed certain limits, and those limits are what we try to work around.
Statement: I can tell if a home has Radon by looking at it, or asking the neighbors.
This is a Myth. Radon is invisible and odorless, so you won't be able to tell anything about radon counts by looking around. It’s also very random, and adjacent homes are not good indicators of radon counts. You need to do a test, and most homeowners should do a test every 2 to 3 years. The tests are cheap, easy to use, and provide a level of information every homeowner should have.
Statement: I should buy a home with a high radon count, if it can be mitigated.
This is usually true. There are many home inspection issues. Radon is one of the few that is typically entirely fixable, at relatively low cost, and the better providers offer 20 year warranties or more. There are few home issues that are as solvable as cheaply and effectively as Radon. If the home does have a high radon count, you should continue to test, annually, to make sure your systems are operating properly. And while we're on the subject, if you have never tested your home, you should have it tested. Kits are available in hardware stores, and every homeowner should know what they have in their home.
Statement: If a home tests above the EPA limit, the seller will install a radon mitigation system.
Myth! Usually, sellers will install a mitigation system because it is expedient, and a re-test is likely to result in the same issue. But they don't have to, and like any other home inspection item, it must be agreed to by both parties.
Statement: A home with a high Radon count in the unfinished basement should be fixed in a timely fashion, but is not an immediate concern.
This is a usually a fact. I have buyers that sometimes react like Radon is a deadly virus from Stephen King's novel The Stand. It's not. In order for Radon to be a threat you need to be exposed to high levels for a very, very, long time (like 20 years!), and that increases (not guarantees) your risk for Radon contributing to a health issue. If you are in your basement less than 2 hours a week, even a moderately level is hardly serious exposure. (This assumes that the levels are safe on the first floor of course). Many homes have counts in the basement at 6 or 7, and typically the first floor levels are under 4 in those situations. I'm not suggesting that you ignore it, it's a good idea to get it fixed, but generally, many of us have far more hazardous products in our home that we worry much less about.
Statement: Radon systems suck the Radon out of your basement.
This is a Myth. Radon systems create a partial vacuum under the slab in your basement. Nature hates a vacuum, and thus, air (from the outside, with a very low radon count) rushes to replace that air. This "mixes" the air, resulting in radon counts that much lower.
Statement: A standard basement test is sufficient for Radon testing.
Myth! If the property has Well Water, you need to test for Radon in the water too. And while we're here, Radon is generally NOT dangerous from ingesting (that means eating) water that has a high Radon count. The concern from health professionals is that when you shower, the Radon can aerate (vaporize) and create high levels in the air. Now, given what I just stated about limited exposure times, It seems reasonable to assume that the "aerated" levels would need to be pretty high for a serious risk, but as far as I know there are no tables on the increase risk from typical shower times and aerated levels. For safety's sake, we just recommend that folks fix it. Note, however, that Radon systems for water are much more expensive than air systems.
In conclusion, radon is very common, but can be well addressed with today's technology.
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