Test Your Home for Radon! (My Personal Experience)

I am always very concerned when a home buyer declines having a radon test during their home inspection. I’m genuinely uneasy about the potential health repercussions of that decision. For me, I think it strikes particularly close to home for two reasons. One reason is that my wife’s grandmother, a non-smoker, passed away from lung cancer. Through that experience, we learned first-hand what an insidious disease lung cancer is. Secondly, about 15 years ago, my wife and I bought a home in St. Peters, MO. We hired a home inspector and even though radon testing wasn’t as common in those days, we asked for a radon test. Our home inspector had never performed one before, but he did comply with our request and purchased canister type testing devices to test the home. The radon gas detected by the test was at an acceptable level, and we purchased the house.

Several years later, when I started my home inspection business, I ran another radon test in my home with a continuous electronic radon monitor. We found out that our radon levels were 3 times the level at which the EPA recommends mitigation. This was horrifying to us because we do not know whether the home inspector we had was so unfamiliar with the testing protocols that it was done incorrectly, or whether our home sellers might have tampered with the testing, or whether our levels just increased over the years. But, the bottom line is that our children had been exposed to very high radon levels for an unknown length of time.

I strongly recommend radon testing with a home inspection. This is not because I want to sell another service, but because I think it is extremely important for the health of my clients and his or her family. While the canister devices are generally accurate and a good choice in some situations, I usually recommend using a continuous electronic radon monitor within a real estate transaction. This gives you the highest degree of protection against tampering. If you find the radon levels are too high, you may be able to negotiate for mitigation before you purchase the home. Mitigation is a relatively inexpensive thing to do and will remedy the situation.

If you are not buying a new home, but just want to test your current home for radon, a canister-type of testing device should suffice. Follow the directions carefully and you should get good and accurate results. They can be purchased inexpensively from your local hardware store. Home owners also need to know that the EPA recommends retesting a home for radon every 2 years because radon levels can change over time.

For more comprehensive information you may want to visit these web sites, as well as watching this video from the EPA.

EPA’s page on Indoor Air Quality: www.epa.gov/iaq
Home Buyer’s and Seller’s guide to radon: http://www.epa.gov/radon/pdfs/hmbuygud.pdf
Consumers Guide to Radon Reduction: http://www.epa.gov/radon/pdfs/consguid.pdf

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

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