Why do real estate professionals need to know about radon? Because radon can build to dangerous levels in some homes, which, in turn, can cause lung cancer after prolonged exposure. Many people wait until they are about to sell their home or buy a new one before they decide to learn more about radon. But real estate professionals who are knowledgeable about radon can properly guide home buyers and sellers by educating them about radon and answering related questions during real estate transactions. Radon can be resolved at a relatively low cost and should not stand in the way of the completion of any real estate transaction. By being knowledgeable and providing information, real estate professionals can minimize the potential for liability and avoid delaying or derailing closings because of radon.
Naturally occurring uranium found in the geology of the State is the prevailing source of radon affecting most of Michigan. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, one in eight Michigan homes have the potential of having an elevated indoor radon level, and in some counties more than 40% of the homes would be expected to have a problem. Radon is clearly an issue that real estate professionals should become familiar with to provide better service to their clients and avoid potential liability.
Radon was first recognized as an indoor environmental health concern in the mid-1980s. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and radioactive gas produced from the natural decay of uranium, which is found in nearly all soils and rock throughout the United States. Radon gas typically moves up through the ground and into homes through cracks in the foundation, gaps and joints in the building materials, and exposures to the soil. The more uranium found beneath a home, the higher the potential for elevated radon levels within the home constructed upon that soil.
Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible and odorless. It forms from the radioactive decay of small amounts of uranium and thorium naturally present in rocks and soils so some radon exists in all rocks and soils. Because radon is a gas, it can easily move through soil and cracks in building slabs or basement walls and concentrate in a building’s indoor air. The U.S. Surgeon General and the EPA recommend that all homes in the United States be tested for radon.
Radon is a Class A carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer in humans. Most people do not know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, resulting in approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, more than 600 of those are projected to occur in Michigan. Only smoking causes more lung cancers.
Not everyone who breathes radon will develop lung cancer. Your risk is determined by such things as:
- How much radon is in your indoor environment.
- The amount of time you spend in that indoor environment.
- Whether you smoke or ever have smoked.
The only known health effect of radon is an increased risk of lung cancer, and exposure to elevated radon levels does not result in any warning symptoms like headaches, nausea, fatigue, or skin rashes. The only way to know whether you are being exposed to elevated radon levels is to test your home (and other indoor environments).
The good news is that radon problems can be fixed. Radon reduction systems work and they are not too costly. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in a home by up to 99%. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
The EPA worked with the United States Geological Survey and the state radon programs throughout the country to develop a “Map of Zones” to help identify areas of the United States with the potential for elevated indoor radon levels. Counties were ranked into one of three categories (Zone 1, Zone 2, or Zone 3, with “1” being higher potential and “3” being lower potential) based on indoor radon measurements (i.e., data from the 1987-88 residential radon survey), geology, aerial radioactivity, soil permeability, and foundation type. The following is the Map of Zones for Michigan:
This Map of Zones was developed to assist national, state, and local organizations in targeting their resources for outreach and education, as well as to assist building code officials in deciding whether radon-resistant features should be incorporated into new construction. This map is not intended to be used to determine if a home in a given zone should be tested for radon. Homes with elevated levels of radon have been found in all three zones. All homes should be tested regardless of geographic location. Important points to note:
- All homes should test for radon, regardless of geographic location or zone designation
- There are many thousands of individual homes with elevated radon levels in Zone 2 and 3. Elevated levels can be found in Zone 2 and Zone 3 counties.
- All users of the map should carefully review the map documentation for information on within-county variations in radon potential and supplement the map with locally available information before making any decisions.
- The map is not to be used in lieu of testing during real estate transactions.
Thus, radon is clearly an issue that Michigan real estate professionals should become familiar with to provide service to their clients and avoid potential liability.
We offer online real estate continuing education to Michigan agents and brokers. We offer numerous different course titles on our easy to use and easy to navigate website (www.123ConEd.com). All of our courses have been approved and certified by the State of Michigan.
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