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Radon: Act but do not overreact

Date Published: 10/04/2020 [Source]

Q. My husband and I have lived in our house for 15 years with no problems. Our neighbor listed their house for sale a few weeks back and quickly had several lookers and an offer that they accepted. I really do not know any of the details of the contract, but a provision was that the buyers wanted a whole house inspection. The inspector came and did his thing and found a few minor issues with the house that the owners quickly took care of. Part of the inspection was a radon test that took several days to complete. It came back as higher than allowed radon in the crawl space and the owners had them install a $1,500 radon ventilation unit. My concern is our house: How likely is it that we also have a radon problem and how do we find out if we have high levels? Gregory of Auburn

A. More than a decade ago media hype caused a panic and questions about the cause and effect of radon gas in our homes.

Yes, it is dangerous. Radon is an odorless, invisible radioactive natural occurring gas that is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

Radon comes from the ground around and under your foundation and is one of those elusive topics regarding interior home environments. If left unchecked, it will build up over the years.

If your home is tested and determined to be above the 4 parts per million that the EPA determines is the limit, act but do not overreact.

Short term test kits are available, but unreliable, with a 99% chance of a false positive.

Long term or 90-day tests take in a much larger test time and an average is established. Home inspectors usually have an electric testing unit that sets up in your home and will record the averages over a long time.

Radon is highest during the heating season because your house is closed. If your crawl space is ventilated, this will help alleviate the problem.

The whole house unit that your neighbor installed is basically an exhaust fan that is venting air from out from under your foundation.

Make sure your home floors that are underground are well ventilated. If in your basement you have any cracks or holes, make sure they are fixed and sealed. If you have a crawl space, a Visqueen vapor barrier over the floor is recommended.