Radon. It’s colorless, odorless, deadly … and easily addressed.
What Is Radon? It’s a naturally occurring gas. It’s given off by the decay of trace amounts of radioactive materials in almost all soils. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it.
Is Radon a Health Hazard? Yes and no. In outdoor spaces, the gas dissipates just as fast as it is produced and has almost no impact on us as we wander around the great outdoors of Colorful Colorado.
Indoors, the issue is different. As the gas builds up under the foundation of your house, it finds its way in through crawl spaces, sump pump pits and through joints and cracks in basement slabs and sub-floors. Your furnace and central AC (if you have one) tend to cause the build up to be worse as they actually create a bit of suction that draws radon out of the soil into the lowest level of your residence.
Radon can accumulate to the point that it poses an increased risk for lung cancer. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.
How Much Is Too Much Radon? The Environmental Protection Agency has set limits for radon in dwellings and the limit is expressed in “picocuries per liter.”
What is a picocurie?
We have no idea. But those folks at the EPA think that you should have less than four of them in every liter of volume in your house. At 10 picocuries per liter, your risk of developing lung cancer over your lifetime is about the same as a person smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
How Is Radon Detected? You can easily test for radon. Do-It-Yourself testing kits can be obtained at Home Depot or Lowes for $10 to $30. You let the tester sit for at least 48 hours and send it in to a lab that will report back to you on the radon levels in your place. This works great if you are testing a home you already own.
If you are buying a property, you’ll want a more sophisticated testing method that assures no tampering. The DIY test kits can be fooled but home inspectors use a machine that has hidden, tamper-proof mechanisms to make sure the seller is not fudging the results. Those tests run $125 to $150. A bit of good news with the testing machines is that they give results on the spot as soon as the 48-hour test period is over.
How Do You Get Rid Of Radon? Radon is easy to mitigate and the mitigation methods are not expensive. Costs can run from $200 up to $1500, with $800 to $1000 being an average cost. The systems themselves are simple and reliable and require almost no maintenance. Depending on market conditions, you might be able to get the seller to pay the costs of mitigation when you are buying a home. It’s tougher to do so in our current seller’s market.
What Action Should You Take? Check out the “Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon.” It has a wealth of additional information from the EPA.
And, if you’ve never tested your house, consider getting a DIY test kit from your local big box home supplier and test your house following the instructions that come with the test kit.