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Old 04-23-2011, 01:06 PM
 
14 posts, read 20,214 times
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After spending a lot of time looking at houses throughout the NOVA area we finally put a contract on a house built in 1951. Nice house in the Mantua area. The house doesn't have a radon mitigation system installed so as part of a the home inspection we requested a radon test. The results came back a 5. So we are asking the sellers to install a radon mitigation system to correct the problem and they said yes. So all is good.

We looked at a lot of houses. Some had systems others didn't. And I know the literature says that it varies from location to location so that even two houses next door to each other may not get the same reading. But given that this house was built in 1951 and there were at least two previous owners to the houses since the mid-80's why hadn't someone tested it previously. I can only conclude that either they did and it was below 4 and they didn't do anything or it was just ignorance about radon.

So my question is, how many other homes are out there where people have radon and don't know it? Based upon what we saw, we have come to the conclusion that most of the houses we looked at that didn't have systems installed were due to the fact that they hadn't tested it as part of the purchase process and therefore may in fact have radon and not that there wasn't radon present.

So I am wondering if other people have the same observation or if it truly varies that much from location to location?
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Old 04-23-2011, 06:26 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, formerly DC and Phila
8,555 posts, read 12,622,593 times
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We bought our 1953 house in 2000. It did not have a radon mitigation system. We had it tested, and it was a 4. We put in the system, which brough it down to the 1-2 range.
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Old 04-23-2011, 07:01 PM
 
25 posts, read 158,199 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtooley View Post
After spending a lot of time looking at houses throughout the NOVA area we finally put a contract on a house built in 1951. Nice house in the Mantua area. The house doesn't have a radon mitigation system installed so as part of a the home inspection we requested a radon test. The results came back a 5. So we are asking the sellers to install a radon mitigation system to correct the problem and they said yes. So all is good.

We looked at a lot of houses. Some had systems others didn't. And I know the literature says that it varies from location to location so that even two houses next door to each other may not get the same reading. But given that this house was built in 1951 and there were at least two previous owners to the houses since the mid-80's why hadn't someone tested it previously. I can only conclude that either they did and it was below 4 and they didn't do anything or it was just ignorance about radon.

So my question is, how many other homes are out there where people have radon and don't know it? Based upon what we saw, we have come to the conclusion that most of the houses we looked at that didn't have systems installed were due to the fact that they hadn't tested it as part of the purchase process and therefore may in fact have radon and not that there wasn't radon present.

So I am wondering if other people have the same observation or if it truly varies that much from location to location?

I just bought a home in NOVA, had the usual two-day basement radon test, and the readings were slightly under six. I bought an electric radon detector, and am running longer term tests in multiple rooms. Whether a reading of six is a problem is another story.

Some researchers (the mainstream approach) believe any amount of radon exposure poses a danger, and should be remediated. However, a very thorough study of radon concentration vs cancer incidence in Worcester, MA, published in 2008 (Thompson et al) showed a hormetic (beneficial) effect in the region of about 2-7. Think of this type of effect like a vaccine.

A very good analysis of the problem using the mainstream assumptions (any amount of radon exposure is bad) was published in the British Medical Journal in 2009 by three Oxford Professors (Alistair Gray et al). I quote from their key result:

"[SIZE=2][SIZE=2]For lifelong non-smokers living in a home with long term
[LEFT]average radon concentration equal to the UK mean of
21 Bq/m[/SIZE]
[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1][SIZE=1]3[/SIZE][/SIZE][SIZE=2][SIZE=2], the cumulative risk of death from lung
cancer by age 75 is 0.42% (fig 1). For a hypothetical
radon concentration of zero the value would reduce
slightly to 0.41%, and for homes with concentrations of
200 Bq/m[/SIZE]
[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1][SIZE=1]3 [/SIZE][/SIZE][SIZE=2][SIZE=2]it would increase to 0.53% and further to
0.66% and 0.92% for lifelong non-smokers living in
homes with concentrations of 400 Bq/m[/SIZE]
[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1][SIZE=1]3 [/SIZE][/SIZE][SIZE=2][SIZE=2]and 800 Bq/[/LEFT]
m[/SIZE]
[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1][SIZE=1]3[/SIZE][/SIZE][SIZE=2][SIZE=2], respectively.[/SIZE][/SIZE]"

The conversion is 4.0 pCi/l (the EPA limit) equals 148 Bq/m3.

In plain English, this conclusion states that, if you are a non-smoker, your non-radon non-smoking risk of death from lung cancer by age 75 is 4 in a thousand. If you are a non-smoker, and have been exposed to radon at the EPA limit of 4.0 pCi/l for decades, your risk of death from lung cancer by age 75 is 5 in a thousand. Thus, going from no radon exposure to the EPA exposure limit increases your risk by 1 in a thousand! For non-smokers, mild radon exposure is a non-existant problem, although you would never know that reading the literature from the radon mitigation contractors.

However, if you are a smoker, adding radon does offer a substantial increase in risk, although the main driver is the smoking by far. But if you are a smoker, you will gain far more by stopping smoking than worrying about the radon levels you are experiencing.

In my own case, I'll probably just seal the basement floor and sump better, and increase ventilation.
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