There are always environmental hazards to consider when building, buying or selling a home. It’s important to understand these hazards because of the health impacts on you and your family.
We recently wrote here about one such hazard – lead-based paint.
Like many of the health hazards you can come across as a property owner, lead-based paint is one that is a result of a way a product is or was manufactured.
Radon is different. Radon is a naturally created gas generated by the radium in rocks, soil, water and other materials. You can have radon in your home and never know. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, invisible and chemically inert gas.
The problem is overexposure to radon can result in lung cancer. The Surgeon General reports that it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause of cancer for non-smokers. It is estimated to cause about 21,000 deaths a year and approximately 12 percent of all lung cancer cases in the United States annually are a result of exposure to radon.
Radon is measured in picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). Generally, 4 pCi/L is the level at which mitigation action should definitely be taken, and if the level is between 2 and 4 pCi/L, some action might be considered.
Surveys indicate the national average for indoor radon levels is abut 1.3 pCi/L. Unfortunately, that average is a little higher in Florida and especially around North Central Florida. About 1 in 5 radon tests made in Florida show elevated levels. In Alachua County, indoor radon screening levels average between 2 and 4 pCi/L, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As a result, testing of single-family homes or duplexes and all other buildings is required in Alachua County, as well as neighboring Gilchrist, Putnam, Union, Suwannee, Levy and Marion counties, depending on the type of construction or building type.
So, as a potential new home buyer or seller, what precautions do you need to take? First, inquire if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested.
Testing is relatively simple. You can get a radon monitor. One example is a $170 model from Air Things that is available on Amazon and can be moved around the home to check different areas.
You can also get a self-test kit that can range in price from as little as $10 to as much as $175, according to Elena Mendenhall, the director of property management for RE/MAX Professionals. Or, if you want, you can bring in a professional to measure radon levels.
“If you are a tenant, the same rules apply,” Mendenhall said. “A tenant has the right to ask the property manager or owner if a building has been tested. It is the property owner’s responsibility to test and keep the property safe.”
If testing is done, and it is determined the pCi/L level is too high, make sure that steps are taken to reduce the level.
“Radon reduction mitigation can range from $500 to $2,500 in a single home, and it requires a trained professional,” she said.
Some of the steps that can be taken to reduce pCi/L levels are adding a gas permeable layer beneath the slab or flooring system, plastic sheeting, sealing and caulking, a vent pipe and installation of vent fans. There is a vast array of resources available to learn how to protect your family from the dangers of radon. Those include an EPA website, as well as one from the Florida Department of Health.