WHAT IS IT?
Radon is formed when the natural deposits of uranium and radium are broken down in rock, soil, and water. As a byproduct of the breakdown process the gas Radon occurs. Radon is more specifically a noble gas, and after the breakdown process it then does what gases do and escapes from the earth into the open air. Since our houses are naturally built on rock, soil and water, when the gas comes up through the earth it can sometimes make its way into our homes from the soil below. All buildings have Radon at one level or another. It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that wouldn’t otherwise be noticed but if the Radon levels entering are high, this can cause serious health risks.
Radon is technically lethal, but only if it is contained without the ability to dissipate into open air properly. Over time if we continue to breathe the gas it will inevitably cause some serious health concerns, some cases even death. According to the EPA, Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, so this is something we definitely don’t want to mess around with!
Because of the inevitable nature of the breakdown process, Radon should be tested and monitored in all homes. The levels can vary from home to home and season to season as well, so without testing there is no real way to know. And this is something to know! Like if Brad and Jennifer are going to get back together! Or if you have enough clean underwear get you through the week! Radon is just another one of those things. In the US, Radon is measured in terms of picoCuries per liter. It is measured on a scale from 0.0 on up, depending on how much Radon is present. The EPA and Surgeon General recommend that people not have an average daily exposure greater than 4 picoCuries. This is especially true for long term exposure which is why we advise regular testing to stay on top of it.
CAN RADON AFFECT A HOMES VALUE?
It sure can. There are two things true about people buying a home (although the HGTV network is full of exceptions to this). They want to put as little money into their new purchase as possible, especially right out of the gate. And they want to feel safe in it. Radon can easily tip the scales on either one of those truths pretty drastically.
Everywhere in the United States has a potential risk for Radon, that is just a fact. But if a home has very high levels and no Radon mitigation system in place the perceived value of a home can potentially decrease. Ever seen the movie The Money Pit? Buyers will think, “Oh no if it has THIS problem what else are we going to find!?” They’re then thinking about the potential installation cost of a mitigation system. About the house possibly being “unsafe”. And they get spooked.
However, just the opposite can also be true. If a house doesn’t show signs of Radon, or the levels are low, the value of a home could increase. Having a Radon mitigation system already installed might even help relieve the stress of any potential unsafe risks. That is the pocket you want to be in when you’re the seller.
HOW TO MITIGATE IT.
Mitigation has come a long way and can be done pretty economically depending on the severity of a home’s Radon levels. An air purifier with a carbon filter can help lower those levels, but only slightly and it won’t completely remove Radon from a home. Same goes for houseplants. They can purify the air in a room to a degree but won’t rid the room of the problem. Crawl Space ventilation in another trick that can help, either with a fan or without one, but won’t solve all your problems.
What you really want to do if you want to go from unsafe levels to safe levels of Radon, is call a certified Radon contractor. They will be able to walk you through which mitigation systems are best suited for your home and it’s needs specifically. This is definitely NOT a “do it yourself” job. That could actually do more harm than good, cost you more money and increase the levels if done incorrectly. So call the troops with this one and let the specialist guide you. There are so many mitigation solutions available nowadays, some require installation and act as vacuums, some require special venting and some just require sealing the foundation in one way or another. The choices could make your head spin. Moral of the story is that there ARE solutions and a guy whose licensed for the job will find you one!
Also, if you do end up buying a home that needs a mitigation system installed this is something that can be asked for in your negotiations. And sometimes if you decide to pay for the system out of pocket you could get your offer lowered. You are not without options! This is fixable!
Lucky for us, Radon safety is becoming pretty well known. Even with high levels the risk still remains low because so many people are testing for it and taking the steps to mitigate it. And, these mitigation systems are working! So more and more people can purchase, sell and live in their homes with peace of mind.