Yesterday I was having a conversation with my friend Robin ( a fellow real estate broker) about radon. We were at a walk through of a new construction listing, and the radon test results were given to us on the spot by Soil Solutions. The house we were at had a radon reading of 4.3 picoCuries per liter of air, and this is considered above the EPA actionable level of 4 picoCuries per liter. As new construction, the home already had a passive radon mitigation in place, but in order to reduce the radon, it is necessary to install an extraction fan in the attic to extract the radon out of the basement of the house. It is an easy upgrade for new construction, and the cost is minimal to the seller.
We were discussing radon in other properties, and Robin mentioned that she had once seen a radon test with a level of 99 picoCuries per liter of air, and I was blown away. I think the highest level that I have ever seen in my real estate career was 19 picoCurries. Robin explained that the house with the radon problem was a house with a crawlspace (not a basement), and the vents to the crawlspace were intentionally blocked. Blocking the vents to a crawlspace is a common occurrence because home owners don't want for their pipes to freeze, and they don't want cats, rats, raccoons to get in. However, if homeowners only knew that blocking their crawlspace vents could cause an unsafe build up of radon in the crawlspace, I would hope that they would reconsider.
Once the crawlspace vents were opened, the house was re-tested for radon and the levels were below the EPA actionable level. No radon mitigation system was needed.
Radon is an invisible odorless gas that is radioactive, and it can contribute to lung cancer. The surgeon general of the USA has warned that radon gas may contribute to about thousand of deaths per year.
Radon is a serious issue, but the "fix" is usually inexpensive.
If you have not had your house tested, please do so. Some local contractors are Soil Solutions and EcoTech.