Exposure to elevated radon gas is a serious risk but is easy to mitigate

April 8, 2010

Radon gas exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers,  and Georgia leads the Southeast with an average of 822 deaths yearly.  What is radon? What can be done about it?  As a homebuyer what should I be aware of?

Chuck LeCraw, owner of The Cornerstone Inspection Group, explained in our Buckhead sales meeting what radon is:

  • Radon is an invisible and odorless radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
  • Radon occurs naturally in mines, caves and water treatment plants. Radon that creeps out of the ground can enter houses and other buildings through cracks in concrete, floor gaps, small holes in walls and drains. Radon enters a house through the foundation and travels upward and through the attic.
  • The gas is measured in picocuries per liter (pCI/L) of air.  A picocurie is a measure of the radioactivity of about a quart of air. Outdoor air is about 0.4 pCI/L.  The average indoor level is about 1.3 pCI/L.  Because it is a natural part of the enviroment, there is no “0” level.
  • The U.S. EPA has established 4.0 pCI/L level as the “action level” for radon in homes, schools and workplaces.  A reading of 4.0 pCI/L is the equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day.  The damage is not immediate, but from long-term exposure.

There are two general methods of radon testing: charcoal canisters which are not as effective as the more technologically advanced electronic monitors.  Testing for radon takes a minimum of 48 hours in a closed house condition.  Adverse weather can also affect results. 

As for mitigation, the solutions are typically straightforward and are very effective.  A venting system can be installed when a house is built for as little as $300 and to fix an existing problem, which usually involves installing piping from the basement/crawlspace with a small electric motor that draws air from the soil to the exterior an average of $25oo to mitigate the most serious radon problems.

“In this housing market I recommend that listing agents be proactive with inspecting for radon levels with a pre-listing inspection” states Chuck LeCraw.

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