What is RADON

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Leading Edge

What is RADON


Radon is a naturally accruing radioactive, odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that is the result of decaying Uranium or Thorium. Radon normally will work its way up from the ground or ground water and into a home from cracks in the walls and/or floors, spaces inside walls, construction joints, gaps around floors or service pipes, and water supplies. An acceptable level of radon is below 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).Now below 4 pCi/L is an acceptable level of Radon established by the EPA; however, there is no level considered safe and the effects of Radon exposure is believed to cause lung cancer.


Typically, Radon is mentioned during the real estate process and is tested for by the potential buyer between the time after the accepted offer and before the signing of the Purchase and Sale Agreement (the P&S). Testing for Radon is usually done during the home inspection and can be tested many ways but the typical two ways are either by a CRM (continuous radon monitor) or by carbon charcoal solution. The CRM is a little more expensive and can cost over a $100 but it will tell the Radon levels immediately. The carbon charcoal solution is less expensive, normally around $40 to $60 dollars. The charcoal solution comes in two small containers and needs to opened and put side by side at the lowest levels of the property, normally the basement. The downside of this test is that it needs to be left for at least 48 hours and no more than 72 hours. Then they would need to be mailed to the lab, which will mail back the results, in all, the whole test process takes about 5 to 7 days.


 If you are a potential buyer or a real estate agent that is worried about having a test come back positive for above acceptable levels of Radon (above 4 pCi/L), don’t worry, there is a solution. There is a device that is called a Radon Mitigation System which is a system of vents and fans which placed in the basement and pull the Radon gas out of the basement and vents it to the outside. In turn, it lowers the level of Radon in the property. This system usually cost around $2,000 to $2,500.


Now, I do need to explain one thing, Radon is a gas, so different areas of a property will have different levels of radon. Normally, each level up will have a half the pCi/L level of Radon than the level below it. For example, if the levels in the basement of a three floor house (3 floors above ground plus a basement, in all, 4 floors) is 6 pCi/L (2 pCi/L above acceptable levels), then the first floor levels will be 3 pCi/L. And the second flood would be 1.5 pCi/L. And the 3rd floor would be .75 pCi/L. Why I am mentioning this is for two reasons, first, to give you knowledge and options. If you about to purchase a home which has been tested and showed signs of higher than acceptable levels of Radon, you would have several options. Such as, you could back out of the deal, you could ask for a credit from the seller at closing in the amount that would correct the issue, or you could ask for the seller to correct the issue before closing. One other possibility is if the levels tested in the basement was just above acceptable level, such as 4 or 5 pCi/L, and you are not planning on using the basement as living space, than you could postpose dealing with the issue until later because on the first floor would be around 2.5 to 3 pCi/L, which is well below the acceptable levels. Now, I am only giving this as an option and not approving or disapproving this idea.


The second reason is for potential condo buyers. One thing to remember about condos and Radon is that most condo associations consider basements as common space areas. And if any repairs needed in a condo association common space area, the cost would fall upon the condo associations. These condo association funds are in the from the condo fees the condo owners pay each month.


What this means is if you are purchasing a condo:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->First, even if the condo you are interested in is on higher floor (2+ floors) you should always test for Radon in the basement. 


<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->If higher levels of Radon is detected, most likely the seller will not be able to do anything about it within the normal closing timespan (30 – 45 days). They would have to go through the condo association board first and get their approval (which normally meets once a month).


<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Also, you and/or the seller cannot do anything to fix the issue without the condo association board’s approval. This normally will take time.


<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Always consider the facts, the floor level the property is on, how high the level of Radon test is, and what the amount would be at the property floor.


<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->How to calculate the approximate Radon level on different floors. Each level up is about half the amount of Radon below it. Example: Basement is tested and comes back with 6 pCi/l, then the 1st floor would be about 3 pCi/L, 2nd floor would be 1.5pCi/L, and 3rd floor would be .75 pCi/L, etc.  


<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->If the property you are interested in is on the first floor, prepare for a longer closing time and get the property fixed properly.


My best advice for future condo owners who may find a place that has higher than normal levels of Radon and the property is on the 2nd floor or higher, if the levels of Radon are not extreme, I would not make it an issue. I would close on the property and if the issue concerns you, I would become good friends with the condo owners on the first floor. Remember, the closer you are to the ground, the more exposure you’ll receive. Once you know the owners of the first floor and have informed them of the issue (which should make them very concerned), all of you should talk with the condo association or go to the monthly condo association meeting and address the issue there. Then the association would have to correct the problem.


 Radon is not something to take lightly; however, it is not something to consider uncorrectable. If you consider all the facts about Radon and the property you might be interested in, you will most likely be able to make the deal work and still have a safe new home. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have.



Some common myths about radon ( Information from http://ma-radon.info/MA_general.html):


MYTH: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.


FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.


MYTH: Homes with radon problems can't be fixed, or cannot be fixed economically.


FACT: There are solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for $900 to $2,500.


MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.


FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state.


MYTH: A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem.


FACT: Radon levels vary greatly from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.


MYTH: It is difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.


FACT: Many types of problems can hinder a home sale, but when the problems are fixed before the home is listed, the sales are not slowed down. It is the same for radon. All homes should be tested for radon, and those with problems fixed before being listed for sale.


MYTH: I've lived in my home for so long, it doesn't make sense to take action now.


FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you've lived with a radon problem for a long time.


MYTH: Short-term tests cannot be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home.


FACT: Short term tests can be used to decide whether to fix your home, and for higher radon levels (8 pCi/l or higher) that is all that should be used. Keep in mind that, even though the action level is 4, this is not a "safe" level and that radon levels below 4 pCi/l still pose some risk. Radon levels in most homes can be reduced to 2 pCi/l or less.


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