FOR HOME BUYERS AND SELLERS
Radon is a colorless,
odorless and tasteless naturally occurring radioactive gas
that seeps from soil into homes through cracks and other openings
in the foundation or walls in contact with the soil.
Exposure to radon causes
lung cancer. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that
radon causes between 15,000-22,000 lung cancer deaths each
year in the U.S. Radon gas presents one of the highest health
risks we face in our daily lives.
The New Jersey Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends that all homeowners
test their homes for radon.
Radon gas measurement
is easy and should be considered by the buyer as part of any
real estate transaction. At the time of contract of sale,
New Jersey law (N.J.A.C. 26:2D-73) requires that the seller
provide the buyer with a copy of the results of any radon
testing and information on any radon remediation conducted
in the home.
A contingency clause
can be included in a real estate contract to allow the buyer
to have the home tested for radon and to provide for fixing
the home if an elevated level of radon gas is found. Alternatively,
an escrow account can be created in the contract, so that
the buyer can test after moving into the home, and use the
escrow account funds to pay for a radon remediation (mitigation)
system if needed. The DEP recommends you discuss these issues
with your attorney.
If you are testing
a house that you are considering purchasing, you must use
the services of a DEP certified radon tester. All professionals
who perform radon tests or mitigations in New Jersey must
be certified. They must demonstrate sufficient education and
experience, take DEP approved courses in radon testing or
mitigation techniques, and pass a written examination.
If hired by the prospective
buyer, the certified radon tester must start and complete
the test. No portion of the test can be delegated to the homeowner
or Realtor, including mailing the test kit to the radon company.
In addition, home inspectors who are not certified for radon
testing may not give radon test devices to homeowners to use
as part of their home inspection process.
The radon test should
be done in the lowest livable level of the homethat
is, the lowest level that is used or could be used as a living
space. This would include, for example, an unfinished basement
but not a crawl space.
Opening windows or
doors that let in outside air (other than for normal entering
and exiting the home) during a test can cause misleading results,
and make the test invalid. Depending on air flow, the test
results may be higher or lower than the true concentration.
If the test is less than four days in duration, windows and
doors must be kept closed for an additional 12 hours before
the start of the test, so that radon levels are stable by
the start. The certified tester is responsible for notifying
occupants of the importance of maintaining proper testing
If it is of concern
to you, your test can include one or more measures against
possible test interference. Consult your certified tester
regarding such measures.
The DEP recommends
taking steps to reduce radon levels if the radon concentration
in the lowest livable level of the house is four pCi/L (picoCuries
per liter) or more. (A picoCurie per liter is a measure of
radioactivity in the air). This will markedly decrease the
risk of developing lung cancer caused by radon exposure.
The most common method
of radon gas remediation is sub-slab ventilation, which uses
a fan to draw the radon gas out from below the slab or foundation,
thereby preventing its entry into the house. Based on New
Jersey data, this method is effective in almost every case
in reducing radon gas to levels lower than 4 pCi/L. The cost
is typically about $1200, though it can range from $500 to
Buyers of newly constructed
homes should also test for radon after moving in. Unless specified
otherwise contractually, builders are not responsible for
testing or subsequent remediation of radon.
To obtain further information,
including listings of certified radon measurement and mitigation
businesses, contact the DEP radon information line at (800)648-0394
or visit our website at www.njradon.org.