Today is Home Inspection Day for my Sellers, and one of the tests the Buyers’ Home Inspector will be doing is a test for Radon. Here in New Jersey, there is a particularly uranium-rich geological formation, called the Reading Prong, which stretches from Pennsylvania through northwestern New Jersey into Southern New York State. Testing of homes built along this formation, as well as homes in other areas on NJ, have revealed elevated levels of Radon, so testing is now standard.
Many of my clients are not familiar with Radon, or have “heard of it” but are not quite sure what it is, and what elevated levels might mean for the sale of their home. Radon gas is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can pose a serious health risk if it becomes trapped under your house. It comes from the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soil and rock, and typically enters the home through underground crawl spaces, sump pump pits and gaps in the basement foundation. The presence of elevated Radon is a concern because it can pollute your indoor air with its toxic vapors, and is held responsible for more than 20,000 lung-disease-related deaths every year. Radon is assumed to be present in millions of American homes.
How do you detect the presence of radon gas, and how can you reduce its presence and influence if it is found in your home? First, have your home tested by a professional. It is important to hire one who is licensed or certified by state and/or local agencies. They will conduct diagnostic testing to determine if radon gas is at acceptable levels (BELOW 4.0 pCi/L of radon) (see http://www.epa.gov/radon/ for more info) If levels are determined to be elevated, the contractor can mitigate by installing a radon reduction system.
The mitigation system most commonly used is a sub-slab depressurization system. This system uses venting and sealing to lower radon levels in the home. A pipe is installed that runs from below the basement flooring to above the roofline, with a fan at the top that draws radon out from under the slab. Cracks and openings in the foundation are sealed, and the radon is vented through the pipe to the outside, where it is quickly diluted. This is a relatively inexpensive mitigation, typically around $1500 and does not require any major changes to the home. If a system is put in place, make sure the company checks the house after the system is installed, to verify that it is reducing the radon levels and that the issue has been resolved.
So, fear not. In most homes, the Radon level will be under the 4.0 pCi/L level that requires action, and in the instances where a home does have elevated levels of Radon, the remediation is not too difficult to perform! The most important step is to hire a licensed and qualified inspector!
To learn more about Radon and view the US Radon Map, visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/states/newjersey.html
Flickr Creative Commons Photo Attribution: Birdies100