While manufacturers and wellness gurus often tout natural as the best choice, you don’t have to dig deeply into the dictionary to find evidence that even natural substances can pose a danger to your health. After all, both asbestos and arsenic are naturally occurring substances that have been linked to cancer and other maladies. Radon is another natural substance that can threaten your health if you are exposed to it, and it has a nasty habit of creeping into homes. What is a radon test? For starters, it’s an essential tool that every homebuyer should be ready to insist on before they make a purchase. Why should you request a radon test before buying a home?
What Is a Radon Test Good For?
A radon test is a precaution that a smart homebuyer takes before purchasing a home. Why is this testing so important? To understand, you’ll need to know a bit about the dangers associated with radon, why it’s a worry for homeowners, and the benefits of testing for radon.
The Real Truth About Radon
As the leading environmental cause of cancer mortality, radon is linked to the deaths of some 21,000 people each year, according to U.S. News and World Report. It’s second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer and suspected as a culprit in numerous other medical conditions. That makes long-term exposure to excessive levels of this colorless, odorless gas a real threat to your family’s health.
Why Homeowners Worry About Radon
Why is radon such a worry for homeowners? Radon is a product of decaying uranium, and it’s present in virtually any soil. As the gas seeps out of the soil, it mixes with the air we breathe. In large, open spaces, low levels aren’t particularly dangerous. However, as Family Handyman points out, today’s airtight, energy-efficient homes trap this radioactive gas. Radon rises out of the soil and enters a home through pores in its concrete foundations and tiny gaps in its building envelope. Once inside, it lingers. As the level of radon rises, so does the health risk. In fact, anything above 4 picocuries per liter is considered to be elevated and should be addressed.
When Radon Is Present
What is a radon test used for? Radon is found in the soil of every state in the U.S., but you can’t see it or smell it, and there are no obvious red flags that signal overexposure to it. That’s why radon testing is so important. As Healthline reports, there are several things that you can do to limit radon’s ability to enter your home, such as repairing cracks in the foundation, installing a gas-permeable layer beneath your flooring, or installing plastic sheeting. Another option involves installing venting systems that direct any radon that enters the home safely outside. Once you know that radon is an issue, you can choose an effective strategy for dealing with it, but this mitigation does come with certain costs. Having this information before you buy a home gives you a chance to negotiate with the seller.
Radon Testing When Buying a Home
How should you handle the issue of radon testing when you’re buying a home? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers this advice:
- If the home has already been tested for radon, look at the testing process and the results carefully. Did the homeowner use a testing kit or hire a professional? Where was the test completed? Remember, radon rises from the soil, so the highest radon levels are normally found at the lowest level of a home. It’s also worth noting that radon levels can fluctuate, and changes to the building or its heating or ventilation systems can alter radon levels. Ask when the test was completed and whether there have been any changes to the structure or its HVAC systems since that date. After considering the facts, you can either accept the existing radon test results or request a new test.
- If the home has not been tested for radon, make radon testing a contingency in your contract. Ideally, you should specify who will conduct the test, where in the home the testing will be done, the type of test, how results will be shared, and who will pay for the testing. In addition, you’ll want to cover what happens if radiation mitigation is necessary.
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