What is it?
Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless, radioactive soil gas that seeps up out of the ground in parts of the country. Like many other areas of the U.S., the Northeast is susceptible to this problem.
What is wrong with it?
If a house is located over high radon soil or rock unacceptable levels of radon may accumulate in the house. High exposure to radon for long periods of time increases one’s chance of getting lung cancer.
What do I do now?
Have a screening test for radon in air performed. This should tell you if the radon level in the house you are buying is low, high, or borderline. Most home inspectors can administer a radon test for you.
Since radon in air levels vary substantially from hour to hour, day to day, and season to season, do not think of your test results as a hard number. These are screening tests.
Radon mitigation systems are available (typically around $1,000) for houses with high readings. Systems are often installed at houses with borderline readings at the discretion of the people involved. There may already be a system present at the house you are considering.
What do I do when I own the house?
Live normally and enjoy the home.
If you have a radon mitigation system, check the built-in monitor from time to time to make sure the system continues to operate.
While the actual radon level will fluctuate up and down over time, chances are there will not be a systematic trend toward more or less radon. Nevertheless, retesting every few years may be best whether or not you have a built in radon mitigation system.