Radon Gas

Ask Andrew- Radon Gas

Written by: Andrew Goodman

Question: What is Radon Gas and do I need to have it tested?

From radon.com “Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, you’re at high risk for developing lung cancer. Some scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage.”

To answer the question above in one word, YES!

Most homes in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area have some level of Radon gas. However, you want to test to make sure that the level of radon in your home is not too high. The following chart was provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency:

Radon Risk If You Smoke

from “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Radon”

Radon Level If 1,000 people who smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime*… The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to**… WHAT TO DO:
Stop smoking and…
20 pCi/L About 260 people could get lung cancer 250 times the risk of drowning Fix your home
10 pCi/L About 150 people could get lung cancer 200 times the risk of dying in a home fire Fix your home
8 pCi/L About 120 people could get lung cancer 30 times the risk of dying in a fall Fix your home
4 pCi/L About 62 people could get lung cancer 5 times the risk of dying in a car crash Fix your home
2 pCi/L About 32 people could get lung cancer 6 times the risk of dying from poison Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L
1.3 pCi/L About 20 people could get lung cancer (Average indoor radon level) (Reducing radon
levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult.)
0.4 pCi/L About 3 people could get lung cancer (Average outdoor radon level)
Note: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be lower.
* Lifetime risk of lung cancer deaths from EPA Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003).
** Comparison data calculated using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Reports.

Radon Risk If You’ve Never Smoked

Radon Level If 1,000 people who never smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime*… The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to**… WHAT TO DO:
20 pCi/L About 36 people could get lung cancer 35 times the risk of drowning Fix your home
10 pCi/L About 18 people could get lung cancer 20 times the risk of dying in a home fire Fix your home
8 pCi/L About 15 people could get lung cancer 4 times the risk of dying in a fall Fix your home
4 pCi/L About 7 people could get lung cancer The risk of dying in a car crash Fix your home
2 pCi/L About 4 person could get lung cancer The risk of dying from poison Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L
1.3 pCi/L About 2 people could get lung cancer (Average indoor radon level) (Reducing radon levels below
2 pCi/L is difficult.)
0.4 pCi/L (Average outdoor radon level)
Note: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be higher.
* Lifetime risk of lung cancer deaths from EPA Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003).
** Comparison data calculated using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Reports.

 

When testing a home during a home inspection, most inspectors will say that a home needs to have radon remediation if the radon levels are at or above 4.0pCi/l. Be sure that when the home is being tested, the owners of the home know the test is being conducted and follow the instructions for accurate readings (basically keeping the windows and doors closed as much as possible).

Newer homes tend to have a radon remediation system already installed. The system is typically a CPVC pipe that is taking the radon gas from the ground beneath the home and blowing it up through the pipe and out the roof. You can usually find this pipe in the mechanical room of the home. If the home does not have this system, a remediation company will have to come out to determine the best system for your home. Don’t worry; they shouldn’t have to put a pipe through the middle of your house. Typically, they install a pipe coming from your sump pump pit, through the side of your home, and then up releasing the gas above your roof. For an average home, the remediation typically costs less than $1,200.

Radon tests are typically only recommended for properties that have subterranean basements. Neither condominiums nor townhomes that are built on a slab or that have an above ground basement typically require such a test. However, if you are in a condo that is subterranean, I do recommend having the test conducted.

Radon is becoming a larger issue in real estate transactions, as it should be. The health risks associated with radon gas are crucial, and for a $150-$200 test, every buyer should have one conducted. Consult your Realtor and home inspector to determine if your property should be a candidate for the test.