For Your Health, Get Radon Reduction Done Right

Written by Dawn Sandoe, president of Vapor Protection Services
Updated March 24, 2015
Homebuyers need to know that shopping for a radon system is like shopping for any appliance; you get what you pay for. (Photo courtesy of Angi member James B. of Chicago)

A leading cause of lung cancer, radon can be mitigated. Learn what to look for when seeking quotes to deal with high radon levels in your home.

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Homeowners may not realize that exposure to radon gas is a health hazard similar to exposure to X-rays. Both radon gas and X-rays are radioactive sources. Both have the potential to irradiate cell linings of organs, which can cause cancer.

Most people don't know that radon is the single largest source of radiation on the planet, and the second leading cause of lung cancer.  Most people will avoid getting X-rays if they can help it, but radon gas, generated by the earth and often trapped inside homes, usually is only considered when it's time to sell or buy a home.

More than just a nuisance

In home sales, radon gas is often considered a nuisance that can delay closings.

When radon levels above 4 picocuries per liter are discovered, real estate agents can keep a deal on track by agreeing to choose the lowest-priced radon system. Buyers might care more about which radon system will effectively reduce radon, but the seller is responsible for paying.

The most common response from sellers when shopping for radon contractors is, "I don't care, I'm not going to live there anymore." It's such a hectic time for sellers that there's no time to reflect upon what their family's long-term exposure to radioactive gas might have been.

But this is the time, when shopping for quotes, to inquire whether the person responsible for coming to your home to install a radon system has a license to mitigate radon.

Why radon matters

When homes with radon levels above 4 pCi/L come on the market, they represent an opportunity to prevent lung cancer (which can spread to other parts of the body).

Not caring about how a radon contractor installs a system is like forgetting to wash your hands after sneezing, and continuing to shake hands. If seller "A" doesn't care about reducing radon in the house he is leaving, he may be moving into a house where seller "B" felt the same way.

RELATED: Is your home hazardous to your health?

Radon mitigation is the goal

Radon in homes, if not mitigated properly, is an environmental hazard without cure.

Because radon gas is continually created from the natural decay of uranium in bedrock, it cannot be stopped or abated; it can only be mitigated.

Harmful exposure can be prevented by installing radon systems that meet guidelines set by the American Academy of Radon Scientists and Technology. These guidelines have been adopted by Environmental Protection Agency and put into law by state agencies. Lack of enforcement of these standards allows for low-quality installations.

RELATED: Homeowners Face Risk from Radon

You get what you pay for

You may find a plumber, handyman or boilerplate contractor to install a radon system for $600 to $800. But:

● Will the system be installed by a licensed mitigator?

● Will wiring of the radon fan be done by a licensed electrician per building code?

●Will the materials and installation procedures follow EPA guidelines for safe indoor air?

Homebuyers need to know that shopping for a radon system is like shopping for any appliance; you get what you pay for. Indoor air quality need not be exempt.

Home inspectors don't inspect a radon system as they would an oven or HVAC system prior to sale. But in many states, including Indiana and Illinois, they do test all homes for radon levels, which is the only proof that an existing radon system works.

If radon levels exceed 4 pCi/L, then repair of an existing system or installation of a new system is required for closing. Quotes can be quickly compared for more than just price.

What to look for in radon mitigation

● A reliable radon mitigation system will depressurize the sub-slab area beneath the foundation (where radon gas pools up before entering homes). The system will allow the radioactive gas to be sucked up by a radon fan through a pipe in the foundation slab that rises to vent 12 inches above the roofline.

A properly installed system that includes a radon fan with 3- or 5-year warranties and Schedule 40 PVC pipe can be between $1,200 and $2,500 for the cost of radon mitigation.

The price will depend on the size of the foundation, the soil composition and whether there are multiple slabs or crawl spaces.

Check this radon checklist

A radon system quote should always include:

● Air pressure testing below the foundation to know where to place a suction point (and how many) in order to make sure all radon gas can be evacuated.

This will tell a trained mitigator whether a high-suction or high-volume radon fan should be used.

● Retesting of air pressure after installation to ensure that all components in the system are working.

● Retesting of radon levels. Only this step will prove that levels have been reduced.

Many radon contractors do not include this testing because it requires the time of licensed personnel. This quality difference in contractors can make all the difference in whether or not a family's indoor air space is protected from the threat of long-term exposure to radioactive radon.

Dawn Sandoe is president of Vapor Protection Services, which provides radon mitigation services in Indianapolis, Indiana. Vapor Protection Services is certified by the American Association of Scientists and Technologists/National Radon Proficiency Program and trained by both the Center for Environmental Research and Technology and Midwest Universities Radon Consortium in radon measurements and mitigation.

As of March 24, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angi. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angi for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angi.

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