About one in 15 U.S. homes contain radon—a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that’s linked to 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. And because radon lurks in nearly all soil, it can creep into holes or cracks in the walls or foundation of any home, risking your health if you’re a buyer and quashing the deal if you’re looking to sell.
Radon risks increase in winter, when tightly closed windows and today’s better-sealed homes help trap radon indoors and let levels rise high enough to be harmful. In recognition of National Radon Action Month, here are some ways to protect your health—and keep radon from coming between you and your new home.
If you’re buying a home
Know the radon risk level. While high radon levels have been found in all 50 states, it’s more prevalent in some regions than others. Check the maps on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency to see the regions where radon concentration is higher. If you live in one of those areas, every home you’re considering should be radon tested.
Be sure your home inspection includes a radon test. Radon tests should be conducted in the lowest level of the home that’s likely to be used regularly. “Many home inspectors offer radon testing services, but radon inspections are not part of a standard home inspection,” Claude McGavic, executive director of the National Association of Home Inspectors, said. To find a radon inspector, check the EPA's website or the websites of the National Radon Proficiency Program or National Radon Safety Board.
A radon level of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) means you’ll need a qualified radon mitigation contractor, according to the EPA, though even levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L are a concern.
Consider a radon-resistant home. Vent pipes and radon-retardant sheeting are but two of the features more new home builders are using. Those same techniques can also help reduce radon levels in older homes and, as a bonus, may help make any home more energy-efficient.