I can’t smell that? Why we test for Radon.
Radon is a natural elemental gas that is found in the environment. It is created when certain organic things decay over time. Generally, it isn’t harmful when you’re outside and the levels are very low. But the atom is small enough that it can leak through concrete and seep into the house. There, it concentrates in larger quantities and can cause lung cancer. This was the EPA’s finding and is believed to be the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Smoking, considered a co-morbidity, only increases the detrimental affect of Radon on the body.
Some homes, such as the ones I have built, have tubes running under the foundational slab. These tubes are connected to a in line fan, and vented to the outside. The idea is that the fan creates a negative pressure, pulling out the gas as it rises and sending it harmlessly away to be dissipated. As it is not required by any building code, you won’t find these systems in any but the custom and high-end homes. Other homes try to mitigate this by placing plastic under the crawl space. This method is effective for moisture, but not radon. The addition of vents decreases the concentration of this gas in these homes. Below is such a system mounted on the outside of a home. Systems such as this are put in after the fact and can have the fan in the attic as well.
It is possible to purchase at home Radon tests at places such as Home Depot or Lowes. These tests are less accurate than the commercial devices we use and have calibrated yearly. Additionally, the results normally have to be sent to a lab with an additional fee to be tested. The cost of this generally exceeds what we charge for an add-on to your residential inspection. Our test is done for one hour using a six-chamber device and is emailed to you along with the residential report. It is important to note that this requires the cooperation of the present resident because things such as fans, or movement of air around the device will affect the test. Radon will deviate based on temperature and humidity as well, so we measure that to ensure the pass/fail is accurate and can give you a piece of mind if you are so inclined to worry about this risk in your purchase.