“Seriously, Radon Is No Big Deal”

This was taken from the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS website:

Starting on July 1, 2009, all residential real estate contracts in the state will need to contain the following language:

‘‘Every buyer of residential real property is notified that the property may present exposure to dangerous concentrations of indoor radon gas that may place occupants at risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer. Radon, a class-A human carcinogen, is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause overall. Kansas law requires sellers to disclose any information known to the seller that shows elevated concentrations of radon gas in residential real property. The Kansas department of health and environment recommends all homebuyers have an indoor radon test performed prior to purchasing or taking occupancy of residential real property. All testing for radon should be conducted by a radon measurement technician. Elevated radon concentrations can be easily reduced by a radon mitigation technician. For more information, please go to http://www.kansasradonprogram.org.”

As inspectors, we hear irrational comments regarding radon over and over:

  • “Radon is no big deal”
  • “Its not a problem in KC”
  • “Its not a problem in (insert your county here) county.
  • “The house has a walkout basement and doesn’t need to be tested”
  • “Radon testing is a bunch of hog-wash – its never been proven to be a problem”
  • “Testing is a waste of money – I don’t believe in it”
  • “Its a new house – radon can’t be a problem yet”
  • “Its an old house – the radon would be long gone by now”

….the list goes on…

But it makes you wonder. If the state of Kansas is going to require the statement above to be included in real estate contracts, why would someone advise against testing? If the state says radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, why would someone choose not to test?

By the way, I’ll bet you that the same people who made the comments above, all use sunscreen at the pool. Go figure.

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5 responses to ““Seriously, Radon Is No Big Deal”

  1. It obviously is a fairly big deal if someone is planning on utilizing the basement as living space. I recently sold a house and one of the potential buyers was planning on finishing the basement and making two rooms for their children down there . I’m fairly certain that they would not have ordered a radon test th0ugh. That’s not something that I would be happy
    to be a part of .

    The eventual buyer ended up being an inspector himself, so he did run the test and found elevated levels. Thankfully since he did not plan to use it as living space, he didn’t require us to mitigate the issue, but said he would take care of it himself if he decided to.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Matthew. Be aware that while high radon levels are most commonly found in the lowest livable space, they are not restricted to this area. So, unless the house has been tested recently, its always a good idea to test.

  3. The problem for agents, buyers and sellers is the lack of reliablity in the testing. Okay, so 4.4 and above is not recommended. If you take a test after the house has sat closed up (vacant) for a month the reading will be one thing. A house where kids are coming and going all the time will be another.

    Rained a lot in the last week? That can adjust the readings.

    I check my house with the store bought tests about twice a year. I like them because they give you the reading over a week’s time, not just a couple days. In the summer my numbers run much lower than in the winter.

  4. Its not so much a problem of reliability as it is consistency. Radon levels change at all times of the day/month/seasons/etc. Thats why we take an average over a period of time.

    Even with the fluctuations you mention, average concentrations of radon aren’t going to fluctuate so dramatically that a 48 hour test isn’t going to give you an idea of the conditions present in a home. If the decision to mitigate or not to migitate is based on a few tenths of a picocurie, then the point of the test has been missed. Its all about the level of risk of exposure to cancer causing carcinogens. Any exposure is a risk, and the risk of developing lung cancer goes up with the radon levels.

    Whether the result of the test is 3.9, 4.0, 4.1, etc, is irrelevant. Its a question of how much risk is each person willing to tolerate?

    I can’t answer that question for anyone but myself.

  5. This is a response to Chris’ comment. Chris, you mentioned that you use the store bought devices and that you like them because they give you the reading over a week rather than 2 days. If you are talking about Liquid Scintillation devices (the most common ones found in stores) you are actually getting less than 2 days. These devices are biased to the last 12 to 24 hours of the measurement period. You may want to consider using an alpha track device. These are true time integrating devices and you can perform the test over a longer period thus giving you a better representation of the annual average level of radon in your home.

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