What is Radon Gas?
When a buyer has found the perfect Vermont Condo for their lifestyle and we sit down to write an offer, a question that almost always comes up when we're discussing about Property Inspections is radon gas. My clients and customers often ask, "what is radon?"
According to the EPA: "Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer... You can't see or smell radon. Testing is the only way to know your level of exposure. Radon can have a big impact on indoor air quality."
Because of the serious potential adverse health impacts of radon, I advise my clients to test for radon in a home they're purchasing in most circumstances. Home inspectors often offer radon testing services. These services will likely increase the cost of your overall home inspection. For a condo or single family home, tests are generally in the $150 range but can vary. Free test kits are available through healthvermont.gov but since testing with these kits takes "3-12" months, they often aren't practical for a home purchase transaction. Tests offered by home inspectors can provide results after a 48 hour testing period. It's important to note, particularly for Vermont Condo Sellers, that certain conditions are required to provide accurate test results. These conditions can include keeping all windows and doors closed during the 48 hour testing period and 12 hours prior. This can be more of an inconvenience result in the summer months. I am not a radon expert and defer to Certified Home Inspectors, the EPA and Health Vermont on recommended radon testing protocol and costs.
Here is an excerpt from the healthvermont.gov website regarding testing:
"Vermont law does not require a radon test as part of a real estate transaction. For real estate transactions or other cases where a quick test is needed, the Health Department Laboratory, private labs, and building supply stores sell short-term radon test kits. Request a kit under the Environmental Testing and Drinking Water Testing Order Forms section.
Short-term testing may be done in the basement if the buyer plans to use it as a living space. If you are using short-term test kits, the EPA recommends using two testing devices, placed side-by-side. See the EPA’s Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon(link is external) for more information."
Test Results and Radon Mitigation
The following is information from the healthvermont.gov and EPA provide some guidance on acceptable radon levels:
"Radon, which is measured in units of picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air, can be found both inside and outside your house. In Vermont, the average radon level in the outside air is 0.4 pCi/L and the average level in homes is about 2.5 pCi/L.
The EPA has set 4.0 pCi/L as the action level for radon. If your test result is at or above 4.0 pCi/L, you should seek help from a certified mitigation contractor(link is external) to reduce radon levels in your home. Radon levels below 4.0 pCi/L still pose some risk, but you can reduce your risk by lowering the radon level in your home. Most radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in a home to 2.0 pCi/L or lower.
If you have tested both your indoor air and your water for radon, using the Radon Contribution Calculator may help you estimate how much of the radon in air is due to radon in the water supply and how much is due to air entering the home through the foundation."
As you can see high radon levels can often be addressed using a certified mitigation contractor. Elevated radon levels do not necessarily mean the end of the line for a home sale, but it's important that both Vermont Condo buyers and sellers understand the safety implications of radon and how to test and mitigate for it. Again, please utilize the EPA and healhvermont.gov for more information
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