If you’re in the market for a new home, you’ve probably become an expert at spotting obvious defects while traipsing through a property: crooked cabinetry, missing shingles, wood rot on windows, doors that stick, and so on. As you check off a home’s positives and negatives on your search, be aware that some potential problems—even life-threatening ones—cannot be seen by the naked eye.
At the top of the list: Radon Testing.
Despite a steady drumbeat of warnings about radon’s health risks, only a small percentage of homes are tested. In Virginia, for example, a report from the Department of Health put the number of homes checked for radon at 1%, even though it is estimated that 40% have dangerous levels.
Let’s take a look at the hard facts:
- Radon is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas that can enter homes through cracks or openings in walls or foundations. Its source: the decay of uranium which is found in almost all soils. When it breaks down, radioactive particles are released in the air.
- Unlike with the presence of carbon monoxide, there are no immediate symptoms that will let you know if radon is in the home. It typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface.
- Radon is only surpassed by smoking as a cause of lung cancer in the U.S., causing 21,000 deaths annually. If you smoke and are exposed to radon, your chances of getting lung cancer are significantly higher.
- As experts from the American Lung Association noted, high levels of radon can be a problem in any home or neighborhood in the U.S., regardless of what is indicated on the Environmental Protection Agency’s radon zone map. While it was once believed that homes without basements posed no risk for radon, this is not true. If it’s a living area below the third floor, it will need to be tested.
- The only way to know if your home has high levels of radon is to test.
- Testing for radon in a home is a simple procedure. Hiring a certified inspector to find any trace of radon is recommended to ensure accurate results.
- The average level of radon in outdoor air is 1.3 pCi/L (pico Curies per Liter). The EPA says homes with radon levels exceeding 4 pCi/L should be fixed, but they also caution that it is prudent to consider repairs even when the level is between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.
In 2005, then-U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona issued the following statement regarding Radon Inspection:
“It’s important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple radon inspection test and fixed through well-established venting techniques.”
He also encouraged home radon inspections every two years and retesting any time you move, make structural changes to your home, or occupy a previously unused level of a house.
For home sellers, the EPA recommends testing for radon (and reducing levels, if necessary) before putting the home on the market. Home buyers are encouraged by the EPA to ask each seller for a copy of radon test results, as well as information on if there is a radon-reduction system in the home.
A-Pro Home Inspection is a proud provider of radon inspections.