Seattle Home Inspector's Blog

head_left_image

What do you know about Radon? Don Quixote rides again!!

There is a saying: “The truth is what is so.”

The truth is---what is so.

Ponder this for a moment…..

Polly wants a crackerAfter recent events here in the rain, it should be obvious to everyone just how true this statement is.  There is tremendous danger in “assuming” that what we think is true---is in fact true.  It is entirely possible for large numbers of people to be misinformed by non-digital information as much as we can be fooled by digital information.

Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that in some cases it may not even be possible to know what the truth is.  It is obvious to me that when it comes to those sorts of things---it is best to keep an open mind.

When the government "gets on board" and says something is “so” it becomes even more difficult to keep an open mind.  In fact, the government's simply saying something is “so,” is enough to convince most people---end of discussion.  When that happens, a chain of events that affects anyone tied into, and dependent on, the government's  information stream is affected.  I find this fascinating in light of how most of us at one time or another speaks of not trusting the government.  Just look at all the bickering about how the government handles almost anything.  Yet when it comes to other things we just turn into the Stepford Wives. 

While the psychology of all of this would make for a better subject of a book, as opposed to a blog post, I will do my best to keep this from turning into a book.

Today I want to talk about Radon---and raise the question: "What is the real truth about radon? 

Rather than claim that I personally know what the “truth” is, I am going to attempt to show that there is at least the possibility that there may be a truth that is different than what one is used to hearing regarding Radon.  I would ask that you keep an open mind and check out the hard science behind Radon.  If you start to dig deep, you will notice that a lot of what is claimed about radon is in fact parroting of information that is dubious at best.

So what is Radon?Don Quixote

1.  Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas.  It is a result of the decay of uranium and is present to some degree everywhere on the planet.  It is found in higher concentrations in some areas of the country than in other areas.  If that was all we had to know about radon, life would be simple.

2.  Radon is a multi-billion dollar industry.  There is a tremendous amount of money to be made by testing for radon and mitigation of radon.  Like other fear based industries it is fairly easy to get people on board with misinformation and half-truths.  Once on board and invested, it is very difficult to jump off the wagon.

So which is closer to the truth?  Are both the truth?  Well obviously the first statement is true.  Perhaps not so obvious---the second statement is true as well.

Now let’s visit the science behind the claims that Radon is a health risk.  If there was no purported health concern regarding Radon there would be no industry built up around it.

I will start out by quoting Forensic Industrial Hygienist, Caoimhin Connell:  A large portion of the general population is under the misconception that the frequently published risks associated with radon are well accepted scientific facts. In reality, the vast majority of well designed studies do not support policy or positions that exposures to indoor radon pose a significant threat to health, and indeed, the majority of those studies indicate that, at concentrations typically seen in homes, as the level of radon increases, the risk of lung cancer goes down, not up.”

Now I don’t know about you, but this sounds HUGELY different than what we are used to hearing from those that have a vested interest in promoting radon as being a problem.

A blog post is an extremely poor means to cover this topic adequately.  The most I can hope for is that my post will peak your interest enough to read the “story” behind this topic on your own.  As an introduction to the topic I recommend reading, Radon—A Brief Discussion, by Caoimhin P. Connell.  This article is where the above quote came from, and after reading it I suspect that most will find it difficult to not at least question the claims made by the EPA.

It is important to keep in mind that political organizations such as the EPA (we would love to think they are “neutral” wouldn’t we?), while they produce reports that attest to the elevated risk associated with radon, according to Caoimhin Connell, “to date (2010) there are no scientific studies that have ever actually shown that radon gas, as typically seen in houses, increases the risk of cancer.”  In a position statement by the Health Physics Society “…risks of health effects are either too small to be observed or are non-existent.”  The EPA itself even admits that there is no hard evidence to support the notion that Radon causes cancer at levels found in homes, but instead extrapolates its version of the truth from the fact that it is carcinogenic in amounts that miners are exposed to.  Such an extrapolation is simply not supported by current knowledge.

Other interesting stuff that one can find, if one digs into the literature far enough (and is thoroughly discussed in Radon—A Brief Discussion) is that not only does the presence of radon in homes not increase the risk of cancer but that in homes with lower than normal levels of radon, health risks actually slightly increase.  Exactly backwards of what the radon industry would have one believe.

In a study undertaken by Richard E. Thompson, and published in 2011 (EPIDEMIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR POSSIBLE RADIATION HORMESIS FROM RADON EXPOSURE: A CASE-CONTROL STUDY CONDUCTED IN WORCESTER, MA) it was also found that Radon exposure in homes actually decreases the risk of lung cancers.  So that no one has to look it up, "Hormesis" is the principle that some things that are harmful in large doses actually have a beneficial effect in small doses.  Doesn't his sound like so many things we consume?  While Radon clearly has a detrimental effect on human tissue at the levels found in mines, there is no comparison between the very highest levels found in homes in relation to levels found in mines---and certainly no comparison behind levels "typical" of homes that are considered to be in "actionable" areas.

The EPA has added two new studies to its website that attempts to deal with the criticism that concerns about radon were improperly extrapolated from studies of miners exposed to HUGE doses of radon.  These studies, called "pooling studies," are where one combines the results of many studies and attempts to come up with conclusions more to one's liking than would otherwise be gleaned from the studies individually.  Of course this is a bit "cynical" interpretation, but pretty much what this pooling approach amounts to.

While I realize that I am in full and familiar uniform as Don Quixote (those that know me have seen me ride this horse before) when it comes to doing battle with the Giant Radon Industry, I will end my ride today hoping that you will do a little more real investigation of the topic on your own.  

With a squeaking and crunching of armor I will leave you with this important excerpt from, U.S. Department of Energy, (Radon- Radon Research Program, FY 1989, DOE/ER-448P., March 1990), “Currently there is very little information about...the health effects associated with exposures to radon at levels believed to be commonly encountered by the public. The only human data available for predicting the risks to the public are studies examining the health effects of exposure to radon and its progeny in underground miners. This information would be appropriate for predicting the risks to the public if everyone was a miner, everyone lived in mines, and a large fraction of the general population smoked cigarettes.”

Based on the 2011 study by Richard E. Thompson, this statement is just as true today as it was in 1990 and is likely why every other TV add is not about the dangers of radon, why there aren’t Radon billboards on every street corner or the sides of every bus, and why most of the information and warnings we do hear about radon is from the industry that is built-up around it---a case of following the money.

 

Charles Buell, real estate inspections in Seattle

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Seattle Home Inspector

 

The Human Rights Campaign   QR code for Charles Buell Inspections Inc  ASHI.org

 

WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board

Comment balloon 76 commentsCharles Buell • February 08 2012 09:58AM

Comments

 

Addendum to today’s post:

Of course, the sheer number of other governmental agencies and health organizations that have climbed on the band wagon, in themselves represents an incredible barrier to anything contrary to the government’s position.  It by now also represents thousands of bureaucratic jobs  in place to support the government’s position as well as thousands of testing and mitigation jobs built up around the government’s position. It literally amounts to a tsunami of misleading and often inaccurate information.

So what does this all mean to us in the real estate profession?

I would hope that it would give us information to help consumers relax a bit regarding the hysteria that sometimes revolves around Radon.  I realize also that it makes things a little more difficult because it would give people choices they perhaps didn’t know they had.  Choice is never a bad thing---especially when perhaps faced with economic barriers to the sale or purchase of a home faced with meaningless Radon test results.

If in the end the consumer ends up having the home tested for Radon, they can also at least have the information that testing may be of little value---if any. 

The information may represent one less impediment to the struggling housing market.

Perhaps there will be fewer deals killed because a house tested as being “high on radon.”

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

While I certainly see the logic and illogical you have presented, I think you would have a hard time convincing most people one scientist is right and the government and their scientists are wrong. I tend to believe the one guy. 

One big misconception I find is to do with the EPA standard of 4.0 pCi/L. Many people wrongly assume this is a health based standard. That a home with radon at or above this level is "dangerous" or "unhealthful". The fact is the number is actually a mechanical standard basically based upon mitigation technology. Like your piece states, no one is really sure how much radon can give you cancer. In fact it it seems to be controversial. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Charles,

I would agree that the media has made RADON a Fear Factor. But one scientist claims does not make any more truth than others. The fact that someone has noted the effects of Radon on even one person would be enough to peek anyones interest. I for one test for RADON, but only after talking with clients and explaining that testing is not exact and reading can differ with weather, air movement, and testing methods to name a few. It would be hard to disclaim a reading of 7.0 plus as just "Not to worry". But putting in a system after just one test is also not the best avenue to take.

Just another Inspectors opinion.

Posted by Steven Wessler, CMI, CCMI (SpyGlass Inspection Services) almost 7 years ago

It's difficult to have hard evidence of a direct correlation between radon gas and cancer with so many other variables in people's live (pollution, water contamination, diet, etc).  We do the best we can with the limited information we have.  Living on the radon belt here near Reading, PA, these tests are quite popular.

Posted by David Artigliere, ARTI Home Inspections, ASHI Certified Home Inspect (Reading, Pottstown, Norristown, Philadelphia) almost 7 years ago

Jim, for sure---it is as if your house is at 3.99999 pCi/L your house is perfectly safe and at 4.111111 pCi/L your are going to die :)

Steven, of course this is hardly "one" scientist.  If one visits the linked article Radon—A Brief Discussionone can see quite of list of other scientists in the credits that also disagree with the government's "science."

David, there are indeed a lot of variables.  I have the good fortune of them not being very popular around here.  About the only time the question even comes up is when someone is coming in from another part of the country where testing is more common.


Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Its so easy to tell people one thing and turn around tomorrow and tell them another. It really is up to US to determine truth for ourselves, and then again, we still have to take SOMEONE's word for it. You did a better job at explaining Hermosis than I did though LOL... although mine was just a quote from that site.  Congrats on the feature.

Posted by Tammy Emineth, Content Marketer, SEO Teacher, Website Fixer (Personal SEO - Website SEO and Real Estate Marketing) almost 7 years ago

Your presented the information well here.  

I've been hearing about / reading about all of the opposing viewpoints on the health risks of radon since we started performing radon tests in 1997, but in the end, I quote big brother.

Even if high levels of radon posed zero health risk, the fact that it is widely perceived as a health risk is enough to make it a liability.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 7 years ago

Hi Charles - For the last ten years or so, I have had a copy of a study by the "Health Physics Society" that appears to comfirm the hormesis hypothesis. Now, I have no idea whether the "Health Physics Society" is real or just a bunch of contrarian nutjobs, but it has made me aware that the jury may still be out on this one. However, with the company, state and federal regulations concerning radon disclosure, and the penalties attached thereto, and well as potential liability for litigation, the study stays in my desk and we continue doing what we have always done. Someone else is going to have to break trail on this one.

 

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) almost 7 years ago

That is the fun part of Statistics, 97.6% of all stats are made up!  (and tend to lean towards the opinion of the person that paid to have the data analyzed!)

I think our industry has the "phobia d'juor" Mold was a biggie, seems to have gone away, Radon comes and goes, (luckily it is not a biggie in my area) Up next--- who knows, but we will figure it out!

Posted by Robert Rauf (HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ)) almost 7 years ago

Tammy, thanks---until this article I had never heard the word "hormesis" either---although I was aware of the principles---pretty interesting stuff

Reuben, well it is kind of a catch 22---in terms of liability we almost have to quote big brother while at the same time provide the other side of the story at the same time.

Dick, I think we are all in the same boat on that one---I think in time as more and more studies come out that either refute or agree with the government's  position the truth will be outed.  Then again perhaps not.  It is a known fact that when people are faced with the truth about something that they have incorrectly believed for a long time people still tend to fall back on what they are used to.  In the meanwhile I will continue to tilt at the windmills I find interesting :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Robert, some of the reason I tilt at the Radon windmill is the concern of "what is next." If we can get Radon erroneously "legislated" is mold next?  It is trying after all---and again lots of pseudo-science behind the push.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

If I believe what the government says, why should I tell the other side of the story?  I feel like that's being wishy-washy.  I'd rather take a stand.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 7 years ago

Reuben, absolutely---no problem here if that is where you stand.  For myself I am no where near convinced so I provide the information from both sides and let the consumer make up their own mind.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Charles -- you are tilting after one of my favorite targets, the EPA. It is amazing how many places have "dangerous" levels of radon, and yet how few have commercially available uranium.  

Thanks for putting out this information, and the link to further information.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

Don Quixote that is really good information and not just because I agree wholeheartedly. I have been asking clients what they know about Radon for a while and the consensus seems to be "almost nothing".  

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 7 years ago

You know people just want the facts without the hysteria so they can make an informed decision.  The government seems to create the hysteria.  The EPA has lost a lot of credibility in my eyes over the years!

Posted by Jo Olson, HOMEFRONT Realty @ LAKE Roosevelt - Stevens County (HOMEFRONT Realty) almost 7 years ago

Steven, radon is literally "everywhere," and highly unlikely that any home has radon at levels found in mines.

Jack, which is amazing given how "dangerous" it is according to the EPA :)

Jo, well certainly on this issue they have done nothing to earn any credibility in my opinion.  For years and years they have based their recommendations on unsupportable "science" and now have taken a bunch of that unsupportable science and combined it together in an attempt to prove their point.  Ridiculous plus ridiculous still equals ridiculous---only more so.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Here's an interesting link concerning cuts to the EPA Radon Program 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jim do you mean even fewer billboards and signs on buses than before? My guess is that AARST is more about the "technologists" than the "scientists" :)  Lack of funding sometimes puts things in more realistic perspective.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

BTW do you realize this is radon action month? Or was the irony unintentional :)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jim, actually in researching for this post I did come across that information buried deep in the EPA bowels.  Actually it was on their home page but still---it was news to me and probably most of the world.  Somebody has to speak up for radon :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Interesting.  I have spent a lot of time reading about this topic.... and it certainly looks like there may be studies to support both positions at this point.  It is confusing to say the least!

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) almost 7 years ago

Charles,

No doubt that you have done your homework on this, but I will still need to disagree atleast for now.

I have viewed your listed report and found good information, but at the same time it leaves a level of uncertanity from both sides. Until more independent studies are done, I feel there is a reasonable doubt and testing is still the best method for safety and health at this point in time.

Posted by Steven Wessler, CMI, CCMI (SpyGlass Inspection Services) almost 7 years ago

It is all very disturbing to not have credible and real information about radon that is supported by inspectors in my state!

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

The fear factor . . . yup.  I can't imagine how we survived all these thousands and thousands of years without the EPA.  When the Geiger counter starts to click like ground zero in Chernobyl, let me know.  Otherwise, I'm not buying into the hyperbole.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) almost 7 years ago

Joan, I have spent hours and hours digging into this stuff and the more I dig the more I realize the issue is no where near as for certain as the EPA would have us believe.

Steven, that is OK with me---I just ask everyone to keep an open mind

Ginny, until there is actually hard science behind the claims it will remain unsupportable

Carla, ahhh another skeptic---you can borrow my armour any time :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Interesting Charles.  It would be nice if more people had an open mind and we had some real science to figure out the effects of radon.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) almost 7 years ago

I have a terrifically interesting book about the hormesis of exposure to a nuclear bomb.  It seems that some Japanese lucky enough to be just the right distance from the nuclear bomb blasts are reaching incredible ages and never get sick...

As to radon, I tell people that Canada and Europe have acceptable levels as high as 27 picos.  So, in the U.S. 4.1 isn't likely to be toooo dangerous.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Great post here. Personally I have always leaned toward the conspiracy theory side of radon. Unfortunately even if one consumer doesn't worry about it, if the next buyer does, it takes that buyer out of the market or changes the price of the non-mitigated home.

Posted by Todd Anderson, Park City | Deer Valley Real Estate (You In Park City group - KW Park City Keller Williams Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Charles,

How about a little examination of the mold industry?

I recently had a closing held up by an inspector that noted mold

Received mitigation quotes from $3000-$5000 [the usual spray on of some "proprietary" sealant,which is NOT recommended by anyone except the mitigation industry]

Amusingly I had a biology professor from the local University take samples of this "mold" and she could not get anything to grow,not even the likely contamination from our admittedly un-scientific sampling procedure

Ultimately it was cheaper to remove the offending roof sheathing on this small house. With the addition of some more roof venting at least the buyer felt they were getting some value. Don't get me started on the questionable practice of cold attics that likely waste more heating energy than high tech furnaces save.....

I would like inspectors to be responsible for proving their attorney approved statements of questionable fact

Posted by william rooper (wmr) almost 7 years ago

Jeeze Charles,  a voice of reason, crying out in the wilderness !

Posted by walter white almost 7 years ago

Great blog. I'm going to reblog it to help get the info out even more. Thanks!

Posted by Sharon Sapp, For Old Fashioned Service with Today's Results! (Century 21 Gold) almost 7 years ago

Gabe, it would indeed

Jay, I had heard that about the proximity to the nuclear blast---there are so many aspects to everything we "know" is seems

Todd, for sure---and why it would be nice to actually pin the truth down

William, no argument from me on mold---it is an issue that is very similar to radon in terms of the fear based industries built up around them

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Walter, thanks :)

Sharon, thanks for the reblog

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

I agree that we should take anything the government says with a grain of salt. I'm old enough to have seen the government's (and scientific) position do a 180 on many subjects.  

But what I know about radon is that it's a RADIOACTIVE gas.  

I'm pretty sure the science is 'in' on radiation's effect on the human body.

The line, "no scientific studies that have ever actually shown that radon gas, as typically seen in houses, increases the risk of cancer.” doesn't comfort me for some reason (if you need a hint, think 'cigarettes' for starters).

It's radioactive. 

And Jay's comment is quite interesting. If anyone wants to volunteer for the experiments that will determine exactly how much radiation is the optimum amount, I'm sure someone could find funding for that study.

While we're waiting for the 'real science' to come in, I for one am going to keep my exposure to radiation - and radioactive gas - as low as possible. I can't imagine advising a client to do anything less.

Posted by Joetta Fort, Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder (The DiGiorgio Group) almost 7 years ago

Great article...unfortunately I'm located in one of "high radon level" areas and most people are quite concerned about it here.  With that being the case, I usually tend to recommend an inspection for my buyers in order to protect themselves on the back end when they decide to sell.  I don't want them having to fork out a few thousand dollars for a mitigation system 5 years down the road.  Another government induced "fear factor" I would say though.

Posted by Steve Mussman, Greenville, SC Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Caine) almost 7 years ago

And....Urea-Formaldehyde foam insulation, asbestos in floor tile, mould in the basement.  This is job creation?

Posted by Walter White (Better Homes & Gardens R.E. / Anderson (Trinity, TX)) almost 7 years ago

Anonymous, for me this is not about "belief" at all---just show me the science.

Joetta, the 2011 study shows that health risks increase  in homes with below normal radon levels---so hormesis may be something to think about.  We could, if the study is accurate, be making things worse for ourselves by getting levels below "normal"---interesting twist to it all.

Steve, until this gets truly sorted out I think your approach will be necessary---once the government gets things to the "mandate" level it is hard to go back

Walter, I am not sure where the question is here.  If you have asbestos it makes sense to clean it up properly---same with mold---after fixing the cause of the moisture issue of course.  When it comes to UF insulation---we now know that a lot of the hype around the product was unfounded---it is just bad insulation due to shrinkage.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Good post, Charles. It points back to the importance of informing the Buyer of their choices and asking them to do whatever research/testing they feel necessary to make an educated decision.

 

Posted by Monica Hill, the REALTOR to help you discover Delaware (RE/Max Associates) almost 7 years ago

Thanks for posting this, Charles.  I had not heard about the 'danger' of Radon, until Real Estate School... the instructor said the way to fix it, was to, "open the windows".  

Posted by Doreen McPherson, Phoenix Arizona Real Estate ~ (Homesmart ~ Scottsdale ~ Tempe) almost 7 years ago

I also saw conflicting information years ago & am still 'on the fence' myself as to the validity of the industry. Just testing because? ?? This isn't the first time that valid tests have not been completed on a health concern. Good post.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg IL Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) almost 7 years ago

Like Steve I am in the Upstate of SC and radon levels tend to be higher here and therefore more people are aware/concerned about it. My approach as a home inspector is to ask the buyer if they desire a radon test...

Buyer says "No" = end of the story. Buyer says "Yes" = I perform the test. Buyer says "Radon? Whats that?" I give the basics, but NEVER  inject fear into the equation. I don't want someone to SCARE me into spending money, and I won't do it to my clients either.

Posted by Eric Knight- Greenville, SC Home Inspector (Knight Property Serv almost 7 years ago

Charles:: Another "masterpiece" of your understanding of things from "Big Brother"....the EPA certainly loves to generate fear! I can't help but think that the brew-ha-ha from the lead paint disclosure requirements and with the fault landing on the REAL ESTATE AGENT----was a well planned, well laid out case that on it's face is quite unfair to any of us selling real estate...I myself got caught in the middle by not getting the owner of a listing of  mine to return the signed disclosure. They simply refused and refused to put that in writing for me---then along comes a buyer who had an attorney who saw an opportunity and he grabbed it--it cost me dearly. Over $23,000 later, I saw that same house transfer a few years later in my office and NOT ONE WORD Was mentioned about the lead paint that was "found" by the seller when they bought the house! The seller got over $60,000 in  settlement fees from the agents, the brokerages and the seller (all split 3 ways) and yet 5 years later not one word came up about the lead paint. I had informed the agent who sold the house about the lead paint and she blew me off, saying to me that there was no intention on anyones part to make an issue of it!!! No disclosure was ever made to the new buyer! I think also think it's all about the power of lobbying and if there is an armed force of lobbyists out there for something--that's what gets the laws written....just a novices point of view!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

No offense Charles, but are you a home inspector with a brokers license.  If you are, I understand your reluctance because a radon test is just one more hurdle for an agent or broker to deal with.  It's easier to get the client just to sign the dang radon release form.  When you weigh health against a dollar sign, its sad to say which usually prevails.

I woud also like to know if you are a licensed RMT by your state?

If you take the time to actually delve into the statistics that relate to true documented findings you will see that   radon is not the cause of lung cancer, it is the rdp's (Radon Decay Product).  The most dangerous elements are polodium 218 , and polodium 214 alpha particles.  Now different environments affect what these RDP's do inside the house.  For instance, on an old house with drafty basements, you might have a natural remdiation taking place and moving the radon outdoors.  More than likely you will live in a house that is built to the energy efficient guidlines that all the latest construction techniques are implementing, which unfortunately are built to tight, and run the risk of not breathing and reducing air quality as a whole.  This is causing a new problem, because the rdp's have no where to go, and guess how many people open there windows in an age of air conditioning and heat?  Another factor to consider is the plating out of rdp's in relation to cigarette smoke in a home.  In a normal situation with a non-smoker, half of the rdp's would stick (plate out) to the walls, floors, and ceiling, and the other half would be in the air to potentially be inhaled.  If you are a smoker indoors, and you have radon levels, instead of that half plating out on the walls, ceilings, and floors, it plates out onto the smoke particles.  This doubles the risk of lung cancer, and people wonder how second hand smoke can be such a killer?

I really question your motives here Charles.  As a home inspector I am, #1, looking out for the safety of my client.  Until you can show me that its not at least worth educating the customer and suggesting a test so that they and there children can grow up and have healthy lives, I feel you are missing the point.  The overloaded circuit breaker may or may not cause a fire, but I am sure going to recommend a licensed electrician take a look at it.  Elementary my dear Watson... and LOL.

Posted by Chris Barnard (INTERCOASTAL INSEPCTIONS, LLC) almost 7 years ago

good job ..

Posted by Gene perez (Greater Mortgage Solutions & Valley Hills Realty ) almost 7 years ago

This may be complete fallacy, but I heard somewhere that people in another country actually "soak" in places with high radon counts because they believe it to be good for their health.  Have you ever heard of it?  By the way, none of us should be living in homes that were built before 1978 either :-) -Kasey

Posted by Kasey & John Boles, Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties (Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - BoiseMeridianRealEstate.com) almost 7 years ago

Hello Charles:

 

Full Disclosure; I am one of those "opportunists" from the billion dollar radon industry benefitting from the "hysteria" generated by "Big Brother" over the radon issue.  I realize I'm a bit late to the dance as I've been under the weather the last few days.  As I read your blog from my lavish & well appointed 1040 sq. ft. bachelor pad (hey! someone's gotta counter the parrot!)...I can't help but notice that your "theme" of "keeping an open mind" seems to have totally escaped you as you've progressed through the article.

As much of an argument that may be contrived by subscribing to the hormesis theory...so too can that be said of the non linear threshold model of which radon...& radiological exposure in general, is based upon.  I could insert links to residential studies conducted by non governmental entities confirming the radon / lung cancer correlation...but your addendum has already disqualified those as "bandwagon fodder".  For those who are a bit adventurous...check out AARST.org...I think you'll be pleased to find that there are in fact scientist - not just technologists...who are involved.

I say; do keep an open mind...your clients can only benefit if presented with unbiased information.  Having an understandable disdain or mistrust for government does not automatically render any & all data collected over time from being irrelevant. 

I've been in the radon & water business for over 23 years...I've heard plenty in that time.  Once, I was told by a buyer that there inspector didn't test for radon because his (the inspector's) mother was a smoker & lived in a home with 10 pCi/l & died at 85 - not from lung cancer...therefore his rationale was that radon was a scam...& testing for it was a waste of time.

Here's to openmindedness!

Best,

Matt.........PS: January was Radon Action Month :)

Posted by Matt Bednarz (CT Basement Systems Radon Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Very intersting- thanks for sharing

Posted by Sharon LittleJohn, 972-365-1084 NMLS#32965, FHA VA USDA Conventional (Summit Funding, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Charles - I've had several listings where potential buyers wanted to have a radon test performed.  I wait until the results come back and if they do come in over 4.0, and the potential buyers ask for a radon mitigation system to be installed, my first question to the buyer's agent is "do one or both of your clients smoke?"  If the answer is yes, I then recommend to my client that they respond with the following:  "A radon mitigation system will be installed at the seller's expense, provided the buyer (at the buyer's expense) enrolls and successfully completes a smoking cessation class. Failure to enroll and successfully complete the class will release the seller from installing a radon mitigation system." 

Unfortunately, I've never been able to actually talk anyone into replying to a request for installation of a radon system in this manner.  I'm hoping upon hope that someday someone will take me up on it.  There is nothing more mystifying to me than a smoker asking for a radon system.  Are people really this clueless?

Posted by Brad Baylor (ERA Coup Agency) almost 7 years ago

I guess I will have to read that article closely  While I am not into scare tactics, I am also not big into government conspiracy theories either.  We all know smokers who have lived to a ripe old age & overweight people with high fat diets who do not get heart disease or diabetes, etc.  That does not necessarily mean that the studies that show a correlation between these behaviors & illnesses are wrong.  It is just that nothing is 100%.  

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - www.BuyersBrokersOnly.com) almost 7 years ago

Ok, maybe because my radon class was taught by Andreas George, the guy (scientist) that invented the charcoal canister, I have a different opinion then you.  I believe it causes lung cancer and therefore it is a health risk.  How much of a health risk depends on your exposure to it.  The lung cancer that is caused by radon happens in a specific place: the bifurcation of the brachii, making it reasonable to assume that if cancer is found there, it was likely from radon.  I educate clients and offer radon testing.  I recommend everyone test, and in areas where higher radon levels are likely (our geology has rather specific zones here), I highly recommend testing before purchasing.  My additional "income" from radon testing has likely not even netted enough for me to pay for the class, so my interest in it is truely from a safety standpoint.  As far as what level is "safe", well I suppose it's whatever level is just a little lower than what causes  cancer, which will vary from person to person.  It's the same thing with medicine: your theraputic or lethal dose may be slightly different than someone else's.  Since I live in the US, I'll quote a US agency and keep my butt out of court.

Posted by Julie Babcock -Nook & Cranny Home Inspections (Nook & Cranny Home Inspections Tonawanda, NY) almost 7 years ago

We live in a high radon belt through the center of KY.  It always amazes me the difference in Radon readings from house to house.  I think if you should weigh your health against the relatively low cost of a mitigation system.  It gets trickier when you have readings below 6.0

Posted by The Hollinden Team, Serving the Greater Louisville area (EXP Realty) almost 7 years ago

Whow---go away for a few hours to do an inspection and look what happens!  Glad to see this post finally getting some interest.

Monica, yes---it ultimately comes down to the consumer.  There are those out there though that would like us to believe there is no other side to this question however.

Doreen, LOL---interesting solution.

Lyn, it probably happens more than we would like to admit.  Part of the problem is that once "x" amount of money gets spent on something it tends to take on a life of its own---a life support system of its own.  When that happens the "truth" can be even harder to get at.

Eric, I agree, however the EPA has "hysteria" built into it because it recommends testing of every house in the country.  If we believe what the EPA says about this do we have an out for leaving it up to the consumer?  Interesting problem.

Paula, unfortunately I think there is too much truth in what you say.  The government runs a difficult line between protecting the public and protecting those invested in remediation of what it has deemed a problem.

Chris, I guess you will just have to trust me that I have delved into the science behind this to a greater degree than should be necessary.  The purpose of this post was to get others to do the same.  That is still my purpose of this post.  While the preponderance of hard science supports that radon in amounts found in residences does not cause cancer, in the event that even one study that does not rely on the original minor exposure data were to be presented, I would just as quickly reverse my opinion.  I have nothing "invested" in being right.  After all the "truth is what is so."

Greater Mortgage, thanks

Kasey, there is still so much to learn---much more than the Radon Industry would like us to believe.

Matt, I to have been involved with Radon for a long time.  Initially as a builder in Upstate NY in the mid 70's.  The houses I was building at the time had wood foundation systems and one of the "fallouts" (no pun intended) from that foundation system is that they naturally vent the structure for radon as was discovered by testing done by Syracuse University.  But that was back in the days before I knew there was another side to the story.

Sharon, thanks

Kelsey, I am actually surprised there aren't even more inspectors tilting at this windmill.  But the reality is that some have been sucked into the business plans of the industry that promotes testing and mitigation.  I think most inspectors want the "truth" as much as I do---I think there is little opportunity to find it.  Radon testing and remediation is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Brad, so many factors affect the results of these tests that it is reasonable to conclude that the numbers are pretty meaningless.

Christine, I am by no means one of those government conspiracy guys.  In fact if you want to know how to do almost anything the government will typically have the best information on how to do it.  Some of the army tech manuals are awesome.  Christine---actually except for the studies that extrapolate from the radon exposure of miners there are no conclusive studies that show a correlation.  There are studies that show that radon as found in homes is not a problem however.  In fact the most recent study (2011) shows a slight correlation of increased risk in homes with less than normal Radon levels.  Pretty interesting stuff.

Julie, I think because of liability we have no choice but to quote the EPA---but at the same time I am certainly going to let my buyer know there may be another side to the story.  For a very long time it was assumed the world was flat---it took a long time to get on board with the idea that that might not be so---there are still people that "belief" all this round world business is a bunch of hooey.

Steve, because of all the variable it gets tricky at any level in my opinion :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

An interesting topic and discussion. I have lost a couple of inspections over the years by not performing Radon testing but I can live with that.

Posted by Marshall Brown, BSEE, CHI (Mid America Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Charles:

This is one disclosure we in my area of California do not have to worry about.  Contradictory information makes everyone's job difficult.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) almost 7 years ago

Very insightful and interesting topic, which indicates that consumers and professionals should secure their own research and conclusions on this subject. When the government illustrates any conclusions on any subject, I shall always confirm it myself and encourage everybody to do the same.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) almost 7 years ago

Marshall, like I said somewhere up above, they are pretty rare around here---usually the requests come from someone moving into the area from an area where testing is common.  Once they are informed that testing is not done in this area they usually relax. 

Evelyn, it sure does---this is just one of many in our industry I am afraid

Kimo, most people are lazy and would rather just take someone else's word for it.  Some times that works some times it doesn't---takes a life time and longer to figure out that one :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Looks to me like there a few that have been gulping the kool aid. Hey I test for radon, have for the entire 11 years I have been inspecting, doesn't mean I going to blindly toe the party line. It's good once in a while to reexamine what we "know" is the truth. A few of the counterpoints here have basically repeated what is taught as the science of radon. I know I have taken many hours of education. I have read and read the EPA booklets on test sops. Parroting these "facts" doesn't make them any less controversial. And I think that is the point that may be is missed here, there are contrary opinions, studies and science that put the "truth" in doubt. 

Open your minds. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jim, If I could put this right up under my addendum to the post I would---very well said.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Recently had sellers whose buyers requested a radon test.  It was in Portland during a heat spell.  In order for the test to be conducted correctly, the sellers "moved out" for the weekend into a hotel, since they used the "open the window kind of ventilation", rather than a A/C and wanted to accomodate the buyer's concern for the radon test.  The test results came back low and no mitigation was necessary.

When these sellers became buyers a short time later, they were very interested in a radon test and had one.  The results came in with very high levels of radon and they requested the sellers install mitigation equipment.  The buyers of this house  are very satisfied with the results, even though the pump runs constantly and the equipment is rather unsightly on the outside of the house.  The house they sold was old and "leaky", the new house had been completely remodeled and sealed up very tightly.  One never knows what actually causes one to get cancer, and I think this adds a level of safety and satisfaction, not to mention peace of mind, to a purchase.  I am glad that you provided the contrary side to the topic.

Posted by Susan McCall, Everyone needs a home, Quickly, professionally and with a little fun! (Compass Realty Solutions, Portland, OR & Vancouver, WA) almost 7 years ago

Charles I find this one of your best post ever.  I like your anaylitical approach.  This happens with other issues too like mold and power lines.  Not that there are not real problems at times but the risk is blown way out of proportion.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Charlie, good job on the feature. I will have to go digest the info later. May have to send you little study off for some other opinions ; ) Now for me without reading the study first so this is off my own knowledge.

We all live with environmental radioactive decay. Everything, and I mean everything is radioactive. So it comes down the degree of exposure and the energy level presented by the radioactive substance.

I may have a bit of an unique perspective be cause I dealt with radioisotopes for many years. Just seems that 4pCi (which is .000004 uCi (micorcurie)) Is a pretty small dose.

Dang I am going to die with all the exposure I have had in my life ; )

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Hi Charles, thanks for a great post.

In Australia the average radon level is around 11 Bq m3; however, as scientific data show, we dont know for sure how succeptable, especially the elderly, children or more sensitive people may react to radon levels. Prevention is best, thus I asked my builder, as I read late last year the radon SOS here in the AR,  to incorporate adequate ventilation, especially in the lower area. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by Peter Michelbach, i Sell Real Estate almost 7 years ago

Radon has been a hot topic in our area. We have found a few homes with radon in them and in almost all of the cases, the owner opted to vent the radon out of the house. It can be done and brings even really high levels down. There is a lot of attention to this topic, it reminds me of when there was a huge emphasis on black mold. Even though it can be good to pay attention to these things, it seems there is always a hot topic that the public really focuses on that changes over time to something else.

Posted by Sylvie Stuart, Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta (Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765) almost 7 years ago

I must admit that after reading the post I cheered that there was a Truth Sayer out there after all.

Then I read everyone's comments and realized, there really isn't answer.

Do the test when the test is asked for. If the mitigation seems a bit strange or expensive, shop for alternatives. I have seen mitigation by laying plastic sheeting in a crawl space, to keeping the garage door propped open with a $2500 ventilation system installed.

In the end it isn't Worth the liability to tell someone not to run the test, even though the test may be questionable.

Posted by Mike Kozlow, Broker (Mike Kozlow Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Susan, given the current state of information on Radon this will likely be the prudent approach for many buyers.

Gene, for sure---and thanks, glad you enjoyed my tilt at one of my favorite windmills

Don, there is so much to know and then we have the "agendas" to confuse learning :)

Peter, there actually are some studies that show the risk goes down with age---perhaps because they are the ones left standing :)

Sylvia, the people that know about radon are typically the ones that have been educated as to the dangers by the radon industry so it only makes sense that they would opt for those solutions.  Someday, I suspect the truth will be clearer than it is today and we will be able to make truly informed decisions.

Mike, yes because of the liability and the "official" position on radon we all must couch our recommendations based on the way things are as opposed to the way we might think is closer to the truth.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Wow...wholly comments and now I forgot what I was gonna say!  I do like the fellow above who states it is radon action month..hmmmmm

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) almost 7 years ago

Hi Charles, thanks for the great post!  When I was in Baltimore with basements, Radon was a big deal.  In Florida with homes on slabs I thought not a big deal.  But I just recently heard that they way homes are sealed today makes Radon a potential issue anywhere.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) almost 7 years ago

Kristin, and how many people knew? :)

Bob, different areas of the country have to deal with this in their own way in spite of the EPA's recommendation that EVERY home in America be tested.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Charles, I used to sell radon test kits and began to have my suspicians about the minor based data due to some common sense reasoning. It's amazing to me how data can be extrapolated in such a wreckless manner. Data is only data, gov't humans screw it up by jumping to exposure conclusions. reemeber saccarine? OUR GOVERNMENT SHOULD HAVE ONLT STATED THIS AS A CONCERN BASED ON THEORY instead of creating an atmosphere of litigation, fear and questioning your free thinking motives as did Chris, in a previous statement.

Posted by Steve Ellis (Smokies Investors Real Estate & Auction) almost 7 years ago

Steve, I agree---and reversing, or even being interested in the truth, becomes even more difficult

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Charles, thanks for your insightful article.  It pretty much parallels what I had thought all along.  Just like the medical industry that in many cases is not interested in a cure but in managing maladies so the money pump stays primed to the tune of billions of dollars.

Posted by Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker, Selling Northwest Houston to good people like you! (Janisch & Co.) almost 7 years ago

2 thoughts to share:

  • For me, radon became a required test when buying a house, because my employer (paying relo) required the test ... so for me, this is more about protecting my real estate investment
  • More recently, I've started reading & learning about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as this will be more of an issue as we make our homes more air tight ... so the concerns about radon will only be magnified when you start looking at all the other unhealthy things in our homes
Posted by Tina Gleisner, Home Tips for Women (Home Tips for Women) almost 7 years ago

Jeanne and Ralph, I am sure that Radon is just one small instance of this kind of abuse of information

Tina, IAQ is going to be "the" issue more and more as time goes by.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

I wonder what kind of testing was done when man lived in caves?  After all, most radon comes from native rock.  Mankind survived and evolved then again to its inimitable, but humble self, still under nature's sway.

Posted by Ken Anderson, Broker in Burlington, Ontario (Apex Results Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 7 years ago

Ken, I actually think it would actually be pretty hard to extrapolate anything useful in a comparing our lives as cavemen and our lives now.  However it should be pretty easy to find a correlation between radon in the indoor environment and how it relates to our health right now.  So far it is far from "proven" from the data I can find.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Participate