What is Radon and why should I get a test done on my home?

Radon is an invisible and odorless radioactive gas that is released from the ground from radium (which in turn comes from uranium). It can occur anywhere, but higher levels are typically found in areas that have a higher concentration of uranium that naturally occurs in the soil.

Radon seeps out of the ground and enters your house through cracks and holes in your home’s foundation and even through drains. It collects in enclosed areas like basements and crawl spaces. Radon can build up over time to the point when it becomes a serious problem.

Do newer houses need a Radon test?

Radon build-up can occur in any home, regardless of age or how well it is maintained.

Radon symptoms. Why is Radon gas bad?

Exposure to Radon gas increases the risk of lung cancer. It is estimated that radon exposure is responsible for as many as 32,000 deaths per year in the US (Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation, 1999).

Symptoms resemble those of lung cancer

  • a persistent cough that doesn’t get better

  • difficulty breathing

  • chest pains

  • the coughing up of blood

  • wheezing

  • hoarseness

  • recurring respiratory infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis.

Testing Guidelines For Home owners and Buyers

Did you know that opening your windows during a radon test, even for a short period time, can not only impact your test results, but render the test invalid?

Radon Testing Closed-House Requirements

If you are conducting a short term test (less than 4 days), which is typical for a real estate transaction:

  • Close all of your windows on every level and all outside doors at least 12 hours before beginning the test.

  • Throughout the test, “closed house conditions” must be maintained.

    • This means keeping all windows closed for the duration of the test.

  • Keep outside doors closed except for normal momentary entry and exit.

  • Do not operate fans or other machines that bring in air from outside.

  • Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans such as kitchen and bathroom fans
    operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

  • Central heating and air conditioning systems are permitted, but wall/window air conditioning units that are set to
    exchange air are not.

  • Use air conditioning (central/window units on recirculate modes only) and fans to keep cool (excluding whole house fans).

    • Be sure fans are not directed at the test device. Some test devices are very sensitive to air flow.

Tips For Closed-House Conditions

Throughout the warmth of springtime, the sizzling days of summer, and even the mild days of early Autumn, sticking to radon testing requirements for closed-house conditions can be a challenge. During these times of year, the urge for homeowners to open windows and doors is strong. But when testing for radon, doing so can completely derail your transaction time-line. Here are some tips to ensure that doesn’t happen:

  1. Set Expectations. Make sure radon testing requirements are clear to everyone up-front.

  2. Follow Pre-Test Procedures. Homeowners should close all windows/doors on all levels of the home 12 hours before the start of the test (EPA short-term test rule) to ensure a 48-hour test. They should then remain closed for the entire length of the test. Normal momentary entry and exit is OK.

  3. Know Allowable Devices. Use air conditioning (central/window units on recirculate modes only) and fans to keep cool (excluding whole house fans). Just make sure fans are not directed at the test device. Some test devices are very sensitive to air flow.

  4. Plan Ahead. When at all possible, avoid predicted heat-waves when scheduling the test. If closed-house conditions are going to be particularly inconvenient for the sellers, schedule the start of the test late in day for cooler temps. Homeowners might consider scheduling an activity outside the home for the following day if possible.

  5. Provide Access. Make sure that there is easy access to the home for the radon technician so that the test can be retrieved at the earliest allowable time.

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