By S.E. Slack
Home sellers, beware. Your home could be a ticking time bomb for lung cancer caused by radon, a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of rock and soil elements. Home buyers and real estate agents are becoming more aware of the issue and demanding testing be performed to locate this deadly gas. But don’t panic – testing can be done fairly inexpensively and, if unacceptable radon levels are found, the problem can be fixed before closing.
Radon has been discovered in all states and in all types of homes. It doesn’t matter whether the home is old or new, includes a basement or is well-insulated. Even homes in the high desert have been shown to have radon.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is an odorless, invisible and tasteless gas that exists at very low levels outdoors. It can become deadly when it seeps into a home into unventilated areas, such as basements. Once there, it can’t escape and can reach levels known to cause lung cancer. Only specific, monitored testing can determine whether your home has radon.
Currently, there is no known safe level of radon. You can carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or use EPA's Radon Testing Checklist to perform the test on your own. If you decide to hire a professional instead, be sure to use a qualified individual or company.
The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L, according to the EPA. Typically, 0.4 pCi/L of radon is found in outside air. Scientists say that a radon level above 4 pCi/L poses a serious risk to residents of any home. If your test levels are between 2 and 4 pCi/L, the EPA still recommends fixing the problem to bring levels to 2 pCi/L or below. That can accomplished through the installation of a ventilation system that removes the gas from the home.