Friday, January 24, 2014 / by Thomas March
When you are buying a home, making sure that it is safe for you and your family is of prime importance. It’s not just critical for your health; it’s also vital to ensure that the home is a sound investment. As you go through your inspection process, your agent may recommend inspections for both radon and asbestos, especially if your home was built before 1960. Both of these materials are carcinogens known to cause cancer through heavy, repeated exposure. Radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to EPA estimates.
What is radon?
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil. Because the air pressure inside your home is usually less than that of the soil it stands on, this acts as a vacuum, drawing radon gas (if it is present) into the home. Radon is a fairly common occurrence. Half of American homes have a radon level above the average level. One in 15 homes has a level high enough that the U.S. government has recommended that action be taken to control the leakage. Radon comes in through the foundation, where the foundation comes in contact with the soil; through gaps, cracks and cavities in walls where plumbing enters; and through construction joints.
A simple home test shows whether radon is above the safe level. The kit is placed in the lowest lived-in area of the house, generally the first floor or basement, for two or three days. The average outdoor level of radon is 0.4 pCi/L, and the average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L. Generally, a level below 4 pCi/L is considered safe. If testing reveals an unacceptable level of radon in the home, the good news is that radon remediation methods are highly effective. Your inspector can make recommendations for licensed treatment experts, or you can find one online or through your real estate agent. Radon mitigation is like many other home repairs — you may want to get a few estimates before choosing your radon contractor.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a heat- and fire-resistant material that was used in homes before 1960 in insulation for heating pipes and attics, as well as roofing and siding materials. Asbestos is made of long fibers that can be breathed in easily. When inhaled, these fibers can become lodged in internal body tissues, and this can cause cancer. Most people develop no symptoms unless they are exposed to high amounts of asbestos. In older homes, often the best thing you can do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. You are not in danger unless the material is damaged and fibers are released and inhaled. The inspection will determine if the asbestos is deteriorating and causing a problem and needs to be removed.
If either radon or asbestos is found in the property and you like the home, you shouldn’t necessarily pass on buying it. With the help of your real estate agent, you can get a recommendation for experts who can prescribe treatment and give you estimates. From there, you can decide whether it’s worth it to negotiate purchase price of the property with the home owner. Often the professionals licensed to treat these problems are licensed for both radon and asbestos, so you can deal with one person. Both situations are common enough that they can be taken care of easily and do not need to stop you from buying the home.
By: Deidre Woollard