January is National Radon Action Month! I frequently get asked by my clients which tests they should do during an inspection. I always recommend a general inspection, a sewer scope, and a radon test. This is almost always followed by “what is radon?” Well, radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is slightly radioactive. Because of this radioactivity, it is dangerous to the human body in high doses. In fact, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the united states. Sounds a little scary right? Lucky for us, we can test for it!
It’s important to know there will be some level of radon present in all homes. The gas enters the home through the soil at the lowest level of the house. This is why the best place to test the radon is in the basement or near the crawl space entrance. You can buy simple tests at places like Home Depot or Lowe’s, or you can pay a professional to conduct a 3 day test. The professional tests are much more accurate, but if you are just curious about your home, the do-it-yourself test will suffice.
In the real estate world, an average of 4 Bq/m3 or becquerel per cubic meter is considered a safe level. Throughout the test the radon levels will fluctuate greatly, sometimes reading around 1 Bq/m3 sometimes it can go up to 90 Bq/m3 As long as the 3 day average is under 4 Bq/m3, the radioactivity in the Radon gas is not high enough to be greatly concerned about. If your average is higher than 4 Bq/m3 don’t worry, you don’t have to abandon the house! You simply have to have a mitigation system installed.
There are multiple different systems that can be installed but the most recommended system keeps the radon from entering your home at all. For example, the system shown to the left has a fan that blows the gas from under the house to the exterior of the house so it can simply be diluted into the air.
If you have other questions about radon gas, the EPA has a great site you can find here or leave them in the comments. As always, If I can help you or anyone else that you know with the purchase or sale of a home, I am never too busy to help!