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Learn More About Radon

Photo: What is Radon?
What is Radon?

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon; but it still may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon levels. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

Photo: What Should I do When Buying a Home?
What Should I do When Buying a Home?

If the home has already been tested for radon..

If you are thinking of buying a home, you may decide to accept an earlier test result from the seller, or ask the seller for a new test to be conducted by a qualified radon tester. Before you accept the seller’s test, you should determine the results of previous testing by finding out:

  • who conducted the previous test (the homeowner, a radon professional, or some other person);
  • where in the home the previous test was taken, especially if you may plan to live in a lower level of the home. For example, the test may have been taken on the first floor. However, if you want to use the basement as living space, test there, too;
  • what, if any, structural changes, alterations, or changes in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system have been made to the house since the test was done. Such changes may affect radon levels.

If you accept the seller’s test, make sure that the test followed the Radon Testing Checklist. If you decide that a new test is needed, discuss it with the seller as soon as possible.

If the home has not yet been tested for radon...

Make sure that a radon test is done as soon as possible. Consider including provisions in the contract specifying:

  • where the test will be located;
  • who should conduct the test;
  • what type of test to do;
  • when to do the test;
  • how the seller and the buyer will share the test results and test costs (if necessary); and
  • when radon mitigation measures will be taken, and who will pay for them.

Make sure that the test is done in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means the lowest level that you are going to use as living space which is finished or does not require renovations prior to use. A state or local radon official or qualified radon tester can help you make some of these decisions. If you decide to finish or renovate an unfinished area of the home in the future, a radon test should be taken before starting the project, and after the project is finished. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon-reduction system before (or during) renovations rather than afterward.

Photo: What Should I Do When Selling a Home?
What Should I Do When Selling a Home?

If your home has already been tested for radon...

If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your home for radon, review the Radon Testing Checklist available at the EPA website, to make sure that the test was done correctly. If so, provide your test results to the buyer.

No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new test, especially if:

A buyer may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.

If your home has not yet been tested for radon...

Have a test taken as soon as possible. If you can, test your home before putting it on the market. You should test in the lowest level of the home which is suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level that you currently live in or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without renovations.

The radon test result is important information about your home’s radon level. Some states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific testing protocol. If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or the EPA’s Radon Testing Checklist. If you hire a contractor to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.

You can determine a service provider’s qualifications to perform radon measurements or to mitigate your home in several ways. Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified or registered. Most states can provide you with a list of knowledgeable radon service providers doing business in your state.

  • the "Radon Testing Checklist" items were not met,
  • the last test is not recent (ie: no within last 2 years),
  • you have renovated or altered your home since you tested, or
  • the buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.
U.S. Surgeon General's Health Advisory

“Indoor radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country. It’s important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test, and fixed through well-established venting techniques."

Why You Should Test for Radon

Radon has been found in homes all over the United States

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above, and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can also enter your home through well water. Your home can trap radon inside.

Any home can have a radon problem, including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.

Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more). Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state.

The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend that you test your home

Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

You cannot predict radon levels based on state, local, or neighborhood radon measurements. Do not rely on radon test results taken in other homes in the neighborhood to estimate the radon level in your home. Homes which are next to each other can have different radon levels. Testing is the only way to find out what your home’s radon level is.

In some areas, companies may offer different types of radon service agreements. Some agreements let you pay a one-time fee that covers both testing and radon mitigation, if needed.

You can fix a radon problem

If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.






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