I’m writing this article in the hopes of clearing up what I’ve come to realize is one of the most common misconceptions among homeowners, home buyers and even realtors pertaining to the many services we provide. In fact, this misconception is so commonplace that if I had to choose only one topic to teach on to clarify something we do, this would probably be it. For some reason, this misconception has been so widely accepted and frequently regurgitated over time that it is now considered basic truth in the minds of many people, and that’s no small issue when the subject at hand deals with health.
I can’t even begin to count how many times we’ve heard clients or agents tell us that a home doesn’t need to be tested for radon because there is no basement. Some people believe that testing for radon is still important if there is a crawlspace, but hardly anyone views it as necessary when a home is on a slab. How this notion ever became so widely accepted is a bit of a mystery, but it probably stems mostly from the fact that many radon tests are conducted in basements and that certain areas of the country that have higher average radon levels (like here in Pennsylvania) are in climate zones that tend to have homes with basements.
So, let me take a moment to set the record straight, and I hope the following information will shed some valuable light on this very misunderstood issue. Here are a few facts that debunk the “only houses with basements need tested for radon” myth…
1. The EPA does not distinguish between foundation types when it comes to radon testing. According to A Citizen’s Guide to Radon, which is an informational EPA publication, “Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements” (pg. 4);
2. Some of the highest average radon levels we have obtained from short-term testing for real estate transactions have come from homes on slabs (please read this fact again);
3. While radon comes from uranium in soil and soil exists around and below basements, a home on a slab is located directly above soil and may still be very prone to a high average radon level;
4. Although testing is frequently done in basements of homes that have them, the rule is simply that testing should be conducted on the lowest livable level. For a home on a slab, this would simply be the first floor which, like a basement slab, is located directly above soil.
I noted earlier that this topic is important because it pertains to health. To put that in proper perspective, you should know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, next to smoking, and it is invisible, odorless, colorless and tasteless. The only way to know your home’s radon level is to have it tested. Naturally, if your home has a slab or crawlspace foundation and you have bought into the myth that no basement means no need for testing, you’ll likely neglect to have your home tested, will never find out whether or not you have an elevated level, and may unknowingly be at risk.
If you’ve neglected to have your home’s radon level tested, I strongly encourage you to do so. If you’re a realtor who has assumed that testing is only necessary for homes with basements, please commit these facts to memory to help better educate your clients. It’s easy to assume something is true when it is widely accepted, but this issue is important enough that it warrants a course correction if you’ve accepted the “no basement means no test” rule – especially when that myth should never have evolved in the first place.
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