The following information has been extracted directly from the EPA's pamphlet titled "Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon". The complete 32-page pamphlet is available for free by calling the EPA Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas
You cannot see radon. And you cannot smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. That is because when you breath air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General 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.
You should test for radon
Testing is the only way to find out your home's radon levels. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.
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.
If you are selling a home...
EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market and, if necessary, lower the radon levels. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point.
If you are buying a home...
EPA recommends that you obtain the indoor radon level in a home you are considering buying. Ask the seller for radon test results. If the home has a radon reduction system, ask the seller for information about the system..
Radon Has Been Found In Homes All Over the U.S.
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the U.S. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breath. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home can trap radon inside. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water.
Any home can have a radon problem. This means new and old 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 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Elevated radon gas has been found in homes in every state.
Why You Cannot Estimate Radon Levels Based on State, Local and Neighborhood Radon Measurements
Do not rely on radon test 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 indoor radon levels. While radon problems may be more common in some areas in the local community or state, any home may have a problem. Testing your home is the only way to find out what your radon levels are.
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. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.
MYTH #1: Scientist are not sure that radon really is a problem.
FACT: Although some scientist dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control, the American Lung Association, and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year.
MYTH #2: Radon only affects certain types of homes.
FACT: Radon can be a problem in all types of homes such as old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements and homes without basements. Construction materials and the way the home has been built may also affect radon levels.
MYTH #3: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.
FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know the home's radon level is to test.
MYTH #4: A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a radon problem.
FACT: It is not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.
MYTH #5: I have lived in my home for so long, it does not make sense to take action now.
FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you have lived with a radon problem for a long time.
The following newspaper article was originally published in Michael Leavitt's Provo Daily Herald "Inspecting Your Home" newspaper column.
When purchasing a home, many buyers encounter the topic of radon for the first time. What is radon and how does it affect families that live within the dwelling? In an attempt to learn more about radon, buyers are encouraged to read the EPA pamphlet titled, "Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon".
The first section of the EPA guide doesn't alleviate any fears as it says: "Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see radon. And you cannot smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. This is because when you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General 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, you risk of lung cancer is especially high."
The EPA and the Surgeon General are very clear in their radon recommendations: every home below the third floor should be tested for radon. Since radon is odorless and tasteless, the only way to know if radon is present in high levels in your home is to test for it.
Radon gas has been found in homes all over the United States. The EPA estimates that 1 out of every 15 homes has elevated levels of radon. Utah County has been found to be a moderate to high risk area for Radon. This means that many of the homes in our county have elevated levels of radon gas. The testing results are much higher in our area than the EPA 1 in 15 estimates. This is especially true on our bench and canyon wash areas.
Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breath. The closer your home sits to a uranium deposit, the higher the radon levels may be. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the home's foundation where your home can trap radon inside.
It was once assumed that homes with bare earth crawl spaces were a higher risk than homes with finished basements. It has been found that this is not true. The biggest factor in a home's radon level is the proximity of the home to the uranium source. Other factors such as central heat, A/C, and foundation cracks can allow more radon into the home.
The EPA has set the action level for radon mitigation at 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/l). If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to lower the radon condition. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels by calling upon professional radon mitigators. Mitigation is a process of lowering the gas level within the home and expenses are usually between $1,200-$2,500 on an average-sized single family dwelling. The mitigation expenses should be viewed as an investment for safer indoor air quality.
Testing for radon gas can be performed with either do-it-yourself test kits available from the Health Department, or by trained radon measurement professionals. Using a professional helps ensure that the proper EPA testing protocols have been followed and that the results accurately reflect the radon levels in the home during the testing period.
Testing can be done in various ways. When buying a home, time is of the essence, so the electronic Constant Radon Monitor (CRM) is the testing unit of choice. This testing device takes regular readings throughout a 48-hour minimum testing period.
A great, free resource is the EPA's previously mentioned pamphlet titled, "Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon." The complete 32-page pamphlet is available for free by calling the EPA Hotline at 800/490-9198 and requesting document #EPA402R93003. Another great resource is our State Radon Officer, Mr. John Hultquist (801-536-4250). Mr. Hultquist can give you the current list of trained professionals who can perform the mitigation work in Utah and answer any Radon questions you may have.
If you are selling a home, the EPA recommends that home sellers test their homes before putting them on the market and, if necessary, lower the radon levels. Sellers should save the test results and all information about steps that were taken to fix any elevated radon levels. This could be a positive selling point.
If you are buying a home, the EPA recommends that you obtain the indoor radon level in a home you are considering buying. Ask the seller for radon test results. If the home has a radon reduction system, ask the seller for information about the system. If the home has never been tested, it is best to test before purchasing the home.
Amazingly, homes which are next to each other can still have different indoor radon levels. While elevated radon levels may be more common in some areas, any home may have a high level. Testing your home is the only way to find out what your radon levels are.
Elevated radon gas has been found in every city in Utah County. Readings over the EPA action level of 4 pCi/l are not uncommon. The highest result that I have encountered in Utah County was 32.9 pCi/l. Short-term testing professional radon testing fees range from $150-$300 depending on the type of testing device used. If you can wait 10-14 days, then get a do-it-yourself test kit for less than $30 from the health department.
(Michael Leavitt operates Michael Leavitt & Co Inspections, Inc.. He can be reached via his website at www.TheHomeInspector.com or by calling his office at 225-8020.)
Have Michael Leavitt & Co perform your Radon Screening today!
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