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National Radon week

Posted by Rona Fischman October 10, 2012 02:10 PM

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The Surgeon General Health agencies throughout the United States have declared October 15-21 National Radon Week in 2012. They say that Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control, and National Cancer Institute all agree that radon is a National health problem and encourage radon testing during the October awareness drive.

Most of my clients will discuss whether to test for Radon with their home inspector. The home inspectors can set up tests for you and discuss the results. House buyers can instead purchase a kit at the hardware store and do-it-themselves; It is not all that complicated. For buyers, there are compelling reasons to test. It isnít expensive, and it uncovers a health threat that can be successfully mitigated. Radon gas screening tests, at least the initial tests done by prospective house buyers, are 48 hours air tests. They require that the house have windows closed overnight before the test as well as for the duration of the test.

There are two kinds of test devices: passive canister or continuous monitor test. The passive canisters can be bought at hardware stores all over the area or a home inspector can bring them and set them up, for a fee. Some of the hardware store brands have the lab fees included and some donít, so read the package before buying. With my clients, I prefer these because the lab is in Massachusetts, so we get the results quickly and reliably. The continuous monitor tests are more expensive, because you are renting the machine and using the techís time to set up and pick up. The up side is that you get the readings almost right away.

The only reason not to test is if you cannot get a reliable reading because of the people living in the house or condo. I sometimes have a situation where there are tenants or uncooperative sellers who will not agree to keep the windows closed. In that case, the readings will be inaccurate.

To mitigate for Radon, a system is installed that creates a slight vacuum under the basement slab. This keeps the radioactive gas from entering your home and collecting there. The system will consist of some PVC or other piping and a fan. Generally, it takes less than a full day to install and the cost is almost always less than $2000 and often less than $1000. Things that make it more costly are installation problems in mitigating rooms with no basement beneath or if the installer has to work around rock ledge immediately under the basement floor.

What is Radon and why should you care? According to the EPA

Radon is a naturally-occurring, invisible and odorless radioactive gas. One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Radon gas is not isolated to certain geographical areas or home types. Radon problems have been detected in homes in every county of the U.S. It caused more American fatalities last year than carbon monoxide, fires, and handguns combined! If a home hasn't been tested for radon in the past two years, EPA and the Surgeon General urge you to take action.

It has been more than two years since I last tested for Radon. One more thing on my ďto-doĒ list.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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