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Radon Gas photos: P 188-P 191
While we're on the lovely topic of lung cancer, let's talk about radon. A radon lab technician told me the story about how radon was discovered. I thought you might find it interesting. There was a man who lived in Reading, Pennsylvania that worked for some type of nuclear laboratory. When he used to go to work, he would set off the radiation detectors at the lab. The radiation detectors are installed so that the nuclear lab can monitor their employees to see if they're being exposed to radiation inside the lab. The lab employees couldn't figure out why the detectors were setting off, so they tested his house for radiation. While studying the problem, they stumbled upon radon gas. (Fortunately or unfortunately for mankind. I guess it's just another way to develop cancer. Like there aren't enough already!)
Radon gas testing is really becoming a daily part of all real estate sales transactions. It's a great additional source of income and you should consider providing this service as well. Radon is a radiation gas that's released naturally by rocks and soil in the earth. The radiation gas is created by the natural breakdown or Uranium in the rocks and soil that leads to a by product called Radium. This radiation gas gradually seeps up from the ground and as long as it goes out into the open air it's not a problem. However, if the radon seeps through cracks in the foundation floor and walls it'll become trapped in the house and the levels will rise.
Some houses will be left vacant while they're being sold. The point is, that if a house has a high radon reading, don't let anyone tell the client that it's only because the house was sealed up.
Some houses will be left vacant while they're being sold. Many people think this will increase the radon level reading because no windows or doors are being opened. However, radon has a half life of only 3.825 days. Because of this fact, the maximum radon level that could build up would be just under a 4 day high level. After that point, some radon will decay and then be replenished by new radon gas entering the house. The point is, that if a house has a high radon reading, don't let anyone tell the client that it's only because the house was sealed up! Realtors like to use the excuse that a house was vacant and that's the only reason why it has a high radon reading. Don't let anyone make your client think that when he moves in the radon level will be OK. If anyone says that, then tell that person to move into the house and call us in about 10 years after they have a chest X-ray.
As with asbestos and other environmental and health concerns, call your State Environmental Protection Agency office for their information, brochures and classes. The EPA considers radon to be the number 2 leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking, so it's not something to take too lightly. Some experts feel that the Environmental Protection Agency has over exaggerated the problem but I would let the client decide that for themselves. Don't try to make the decision for them.
The EPA uses a reading of 4 Pico Curies per liter to determine the maximum radon level in a house before mitigation is recommended. I will give you some background so you have an idea of how Pico Curies are measured. The EPA office in my area says that one Pico Curie is the average indoor radon level and this is equal to getting about 100 chest X-rays per year. Now that may seem very high, but let me put it in the proper perspective. The EPA also informed me that the amount of radiation you receive from a normal chest X-ray, usually isn't as high as most people think. For example, with a reading of one Pico Curie per liter, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 3-13 people out of 1,000 will die of lung cancer. This is similar to a nonsmoker's risk of dying of lung cancer.
With a reading of 4 Pico Curies per liter, it's estimated that 13-50 people out of 1,000 will die of lung cancer. This is similar to five times the nonsmoker's risk of dying of lung cancer. You still may want to inform your client about this so that they an decide for themselves if the radon levels found are acceptable to them or not. Don't take it upon yourself to make the decision for your client.