Myths about radon and radon testing

We often hear things from potential buyers (and sometimes from real estate agents, too) explaining why they think they do not need to test for radon. I’ll address some of these issues below:

  1. The house is on a slab or crawl space- while this tends to keep the radon levels lower than they would otherwise be, we see lots of homes with high radon levels that are either on slabs or on crawl spaces.  You should test.
  2. The house is one-story- again, although one-story homes tend to have lower readings (due to the “smokestack” effect of a two-story home, that increases the negative pressure, hence drawing more earth gases into the home), we see very little difference in readings in one- or two-story homes.  Plenty of single story homes have elevated radon levels.  You should test.
  3. It’s too expensive, and I’ll just test it when I move in to the home.  This is certainly an option, but the downside is that during a real estate transaction, if you test the home and it is high, very often the seller will pay for mitigation.  Also consider this scenario- say you decide not to test for radon, but when you sell your house four years from now, the new buyer tests, and the radon level is high.  Guess who gets stuck with the cost of mitigation (without having had the benefit of a healthy home while you lived in it)?
  4. I think radon is a hoax, and I’ll take my chances.  Fair enough, but I would hate to be on the losing end of this bet in twenty years, explaining to my family that although the science was firmly established, I chose to risk my health and theirs, and that I’m sorry for the ensuing health issues (on the upside, I “saved” $130!).  Again, remember that in most cases the seller will end up paying for the cost of mitigation.  You have very little to lose, and everything to gain.

Addressing point number four above, part of the difficulty appears to be the lack of trust most people have in the EPA. I share that distrust, probably more firmly than most. But I also want to point out that many other countries actually have much more stringent mitigation thresholds. This is not an EPA issue at all- what they do is simply set the mitigation threshold and track the data to show where the levels are high in our country.

That’s about it for radon, and congratulations to you if you’ve hung in there for all five lessons.

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