All home owners should test for radon, starting when they buy a house. Make it part of the inspection & tell your lawyer its being done.
Most of us have been taking extra good care of our health during the pandemic, starting with staying home a lot. But there could be a serious danger threatening the health of your lungs, lurking inside of your home that has nothing to do with Covid. The last thing we all need now is one more thing to worry about, but this is serious business. So listen up and know that the problem does have a solution. I am talking about radon gas.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas which comes from the breakdown of uranium in the earth. It can seep into our homes and since it is colorless and odorless, people don’t even know that it’s there. It is present throughout the United States and the question that homeowners should be asking themselves is in terms of ‘how much’ they have, not ‘if’ it is present inside of their homes. Radon is measured in ‘picocuries per liter’ (go figure) and levels under 4.0 are currently considered an acceptable risk. Radon levels are tested using professionally placed monitoring equipment or, a less reliable but definitely cheaper, home test kit. I recommend that all of my real estate clients who are buying a new house have the radon levels professionally tested during their home inspection. I’m always amazed that most people didn’t even know that radon in homes was ‘a thing’ until their Realtor told them about it. Have you ever heard of drunk driving? Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and according to the EPA, is responsible for more deaths per year than drunk driving.
What if the house I am buying has elevated radon gas?
The good news is that elevated radon can be mitigated by hiring a radon mitigation company. They drill a hole into the ground – usually near the sump pump or through the garage, and a series of pipes and an exterior fan are used. The system should be maintenance free and brings the levels to practically zilch. Many homes that you pass by every day probably have radon mitigation systems and you can’t even tell unless you know what to look for.
If you are buying a house, unless you are buying a condo that does not sit on the first floor, make a radon test part of your home inspection. Immediately tell your realtor and your real estate attorney that you are having this done, to protect your rights under any inspection deadlines contained in your real estate contract. This way, your lawyer can negotiate with the sellers on your behalf if radon levels are an issue. Sellers have a huge incentive to pay for radon mitigation before closing because they know that this is a problem that most buyers are not going to be willing to take on. It stinks if you are selling your house only to find out that not only have you been living with a dangerous gas but that you now have to pay to fix it for another family. But that’s how it works. A seller can refuse to have it taken care of but in Illinois, they will then have to disclose the presence of radon to subsequent potential buyers who will undoubtedly also want it addressed.
Please Re-Check your Radon levels from time to time
Re-checking radon is like having routine cancer screenings but much easier because you don’t even have to get undressed. Like cancer, radon dangers sneak in undetected. Industry specialists recommend a re-check every two years. Admittedly, I went five years before re-checking. My house jumped from 2.1 to 3.9 over a five year period. Being so close to 4, we called in the mitigation company. A pleasant man from VSI came to my house in January. Five hours and thirteen hundred dollars later, my house was good to go. And that, is peace of mind!