If you are buying or selling a home in Portland this year, make sure it has a recent radon test. Here are 16 reasons why, updated for 2019!
1. Radon is sneaky. Radon gas comes from underground uranium (which is what gives radon its radioactive properties). Sometimes the gas stays underground, but depending on the geology under your home, it can find its way out. Radon is a one-atom gas, meaning it can find its way through almost any barrier.
2. You never know until you test. Radon is a radioactive gas, invisible and odorless. You can’t see it, smell it or taste it. Testing, whether with a do-it-yourself kit or through a professional detection contractor, is the only way to know if it’s in a home. The testing period can be as short as two days or as long as a year.
3. Old tests may be inaccurate. Results can change with the season, reflecting changes in the way a home is ventilated and seasonal weather conditions. Even if the most recent test showed low levels, it’s a good idea to test again in 2019, especially if you can do it at a different time of year than the last test.
5. You won’t have any surprises. It’s becoming more common for home inspectors to test for radon when you sell your home. If the test shows high radon levels in your home, it could slow down your home selling process. According to the EPA, one out of every 15 homes is estimated to have elevated radon levels.
6. It’s relatively inexpensive. Test kits are available for as little as $15, and you may be eligible for a free testing kit. Look for your home on the 2019 Indoor Radon Risk Level map supplied by the Oregon Health Authority. If your region is grey, it means there is not enough testing data to establish a risk level for your home, and OHA will supply a test kit to you (at this time).
7. Checking the 2019 Portland Radon Map is just the first step. Even in a city as dense as Portland, radon levels can vary from one neighborhood to the next. According to the Oregon Health Authority, home radon test results can vary greatly even from door to door, and living in a low risk zone doesn’t mean your home can’t have a high radon level.
8. Mitigation is relatively easy. If your home tests high for Radon unplug crawlspace vents (if you have them). Often this is enough to bring radon down to safe levels, and energy savings from blocked crawlspace vents in Portland’s mild climate are minimal (or go ahead and install some insulation in your crawlspace if you don’t have it!). If unblocking your crawlspace vents doesn’t bring Radon levels down, a qualified contractor will be able to recommend and implement solutions to vent the area underneath your home professionally, typically with a monitoring system so you can rest at peace. Professional mitigation systems can run over a thousand dollars but it is a small price to pay for your health and peace of mind.
9. You don’t have to DIY. If you aren’t interested in testing for radon yourself, you can always hire the pros. Find a list of local Portland radon detection companies here. Professional Radon testing is not very expensive, usually runs less than $200.
10. Children are especially vulnerable to radon. With smaller lungs, they take more frequent breaths, increasing their radon exposure. Portland is a great place to raise kids — as long as they aren’t growing up with radon!
11. Any home can have a radon problem. According to the EPA, radon can occur in all homes, not just older homes. Radon is found both in homes that are well sealed and homes that are drafty, with or without crawlspaces and basements. In 2019, let’s forget the idea that only certain Portland homes can have a high radon levels!
12. Knowing radon levels is a good landlord policy. Even if your Portland home is an investment and you don’t live in it, whoever does live there is just as vulnerable to radon exposure. As the homeowner, having radon levels checked in 2019 is the responsible thing to do, especially if you haven’t done it recently.
13. More data is needed. Several Oregon counties, including Portland’s Washington and Multnomah counties, have implemented requirements that newly constructed homes include radon mitigation. Enough homes in these counties were tested and found to be a high radon risk that lawmakers decided to act. Keeping the tests coming will ensure that future generations will not have to worry about this silent killer!
14. Have we mentioned lung cancer? In 2018, radon will contribute to or cause 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States alone, according to the National Cancer Institute.
15. The Portland area has recently experienced four small earthquakes. Because radon is a gas that’s typically trapped between rock layers underground, any geologic activity (like earthquakes, even small ones) under Portland can change radon levels in a home. Structural changes, like remodeling, in the basement or foundation can also invite more radon in.
16. Radon awareness is growing. Home buyers in 2019 will be asking about radon mitigation — so make sure you can use this as a positive selling point! Talk to your real estate agent today about how taking measures to mitigate radon in your home might attract more offers when you put it on the Portland real estate market.
I always recommend having a radon test done on ANY home my client is hoping to purchase. If you have any further questions about radon testing, please reach out to me.