Radon and Real Estate

What is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil and rock and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation.

Why do you need to test for Radon?

When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. You cannot predict radon levels based on state, local, and neighborhood radon measurements. Do not rely on radon test results taken in other homes in the neighborhood to estimate the radon level in your home. Homes which are next to each other can have different radon levels. Testing is the only way to find out what your home's radon level is. Any home can have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.

Who can test for Radon?

Self-motivated homeowners to certified professionals can test for radon using the proper protocols and testing equipment. During a real estate transaction, its fairly common to hire a certified radon measurement professional to perform the testing. A test must be conducted for a minimum of 48 continuous hours. Whether you choose to use a short-term or long-term radon detection devices or a certified radon measurement professional, be sure the test is analyzed by and the results reported by a NYS DOH Environmental Laboratory Approval Program certified lab. ELAP certification ensures that the results obtained from an individual or firm are accurate and reliable.

When should I test for Radon?

More and more, consumers are asking about radon levels before they buy or rent a home. Because real estate sales happen quickly, there is often little time to deal with radon and other issues. The best thing to do is to test for radon now and save the results.

Test in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means the lowest level that you are going to use as living space, which is finished or does not require renovations prior to use. Make sure the radon test is analyzed by an Environmental Laboratory Approval Program certified laboratory. Fix a problem, if it exists, so it won't complicate your home sale.

If you are planning to buy or sell a home, EPA's Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon, addresses some common questions.

I've received the Radon test results. What should I do?

The United State Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) recommends, that you take action to fix your home if tests are at or above 4.0 pCi/L. The New York State Department of Health Radon Program (NYS DOH) can provide information on how to fix your home. More information is available at Consumers Guide to Radon Reduction.

I'm buying a home. What should I do?

The US EPA and the NYS DOH recommend that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you consider buying. Ask the seller for their radon test results. If no test was conducted in the home, consult a radon testing professional about conducting a test. If the house has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for any information they have about the system. Any issues can usually be resolved through negotiations between the buyer and seller.

I'm selling a home. What should I do?

The US EPA and the NYS DOH recommend that you test your home before putting it on the market. If your home has an elevated radon level, it is recommended you take action to lower it. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix the problem. This could be a positive selling point.

A radon problem can be easily identified and fixed.

Remember:

  • A radon problem can be found in any home, regardless of how old or new it is.
  • A radon problem can be fixed!
  • Homes with elevated radon can be reduced to less than 4.0 pCi/L.

Additional Information

For information on where to purchase a radon test kit or for further assistance, please call the NYS DOH at 518-402-7556, or email radon@health.state.ny.us.