Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

My new house has radon

  1. Mar 17, 2006 #1


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    So I got the results of my new townhouse's radon test tonight and it has 16.4 pCi/l - the EPA limit is 4 and the national average is 1.3.

    I'm not the panicky type so this doesn't upset me much, but I'm just wondering if anyone has any experience with radon. I figure the current owner can seal the basement walls and add some ventilation and it'll be good, right...?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2006 #2
    I think any repairs to be undertaken by the seller have to be stipulated in your bid. Check with a real estate lawyer. Was your bid contigent upon the results of the inspections? Can you get out of it based on this?
  4. Mar 18, 2006 #3
    No wonder it was for sale.
  5. Mar 18, 2006 #4
    Radon: element 86, noble gas, atomic weight 222. Weighs more per mole than lead. A weird and interesting element. I wonder what volume 222 grams of it would occupy under normal conditions.
  6. Mar 18, 2006 #5
    Who needs birth control when you have Radon. I would check your boys from time to time just to make sure there isnt any shirkage in non-cold weather conditions, if you know what I mean. Kids are annoying anyways, who needs kids?
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2006
  7. Mar 18, 2006 #6
    Why, 22.4 litres, of course!

    (conversion - 1 mole @STP ~ 22.4 liters)
  8. Mar 18, 2006 #7
    Russ - is the seller paying for mitigation?
  9. Mar 18, 2006 #8
    How'd ya figure that? Ejicate me!
  10. Mar 18, 2006 #9
    All noble gasses have the same volume at Standard temperature and pressure. (one moles worth of the gas. One mole has the same weight as your atomic number, in this case 222g).
  11. Mar 18, 2006 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Well, now you know how closely building codes were followed during construction --- radon areas have required perforated plastic pipe under slabs for twenty years or so (not with actual ventilation equipment attached and running, but for use in the event of who knows what). If it's on "hard rock," don't sweat it, you got a lousy test result (walk-out basement trap that much over hard-rock? Uh-uh) If it's on fill, it ain't properly compacted, and it's probably got more in it than just hot stuff.

    Actually, there are a couple areas back east that do have fairly "hot" granites, 10s of picos per liter. Didn't think they were around Philly, though. They are known, and if this is one of them, building codes sure as hell required the foundation and slab ventilation system, and if it ain't there, there are other things missing.
  12. Mar 18, 2006 #11
    Thanks. I did not know they all had the same volume at STP.
  13. Mar 18, 2006 #12
    Russ, When I first moved to Omaha, I installed radon mitigation systems. (only for a couple months or so). I wouldn't say I know much about it, but I might be able to answer some of your questions, if it is pertaining to installation.

    I can tell you I live in a "Zone 1" area. Highest Potential (greater than 4 pCi/L). Also, I have a sister-in-law who is a real estate agent. After I saw how easy it was to install radon mitigation systems, I thought about adding it as a service of my side business. After talking to her, she told me that even here, radon testing is not a requirement to sell/buy a house. The catch is, once it has been tested, the results have to be disclosed to potential buyers. Her personal opinion was that real estate agents that suggest radon testing, (and then quickly give out the name of a person to install the system once it's found), is an un-ethical business practice. Which I have to say I agree with, and hence I don't offer it. What I find most significant is that radon isn't deemed that much of a threat to be required in the buying/selling process. Maybe we are just behind in the times.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2006
  14. Mar 18, 2006 #13

    Chi Meson

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The Curies shoulda never invented that stuff!
  15. Mar 18, 2006 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The EPA says radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers: Health Risks - radon

    As to what to do, the EPA also has a FAQ about radon and buying/selling houses: Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon

    I guess the seriousness depends on how much trust you put in the EPA's study (which was done by the University of Iowa with help from University of Kansas and St.John's).
  16. Mar 18, 2006 #15
    Those levels are extreemly dangerous russ_watters!
  17. Mar 18, 2006 #16
    I trust, very much, the EPA's study. I smoke, so I guess I'm screwed anyway.
  18. Mar 18, 2006 #17


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Even if you don't care about the radon levels or can get it remediated, there is the aspect of resale and value that you need to take into account. Russ, I am pretty certain that you plan on getting married and moving out to a bigger place at some point, right? I would seriously consider the fact that you may have a hard time selling that place in the end when you want to move up.
  19. Mar 18, 2006 #18


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It does have the pipe installed and yes, the agreement of sale was contingent on the test (that's why I got the test).
    Yeah, southeastern PA is pretty hot. My parents' neighborhood has a number of houses in it that required mitigation.
    A lot. Enough that after reading the study (I actually found it and read it last night) it changed my opinion somewhat - I had actually thought radon to be a relatively minor risk. Still not something to be too concerned about if it is taken care of properly, but an annoyance.

    What I'm actually more worried about is Fred's point - what it does to the value of the house. The appraisal's next week. If mitigation works, there shouldn't be an issue - and I wouldn't much care - but perception is reality and if it scares away potential buyers, then it does have a real impact on the value of the home and ease of sale.
  20. Mar 18, 2006 #19


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    EPA's Radon Mitigation Standards

    Sealing might help, and ventilation seems necessary, and should help.

    If the basement is not ventilated now, then the current levels reflect accumulation. It might be worthwhile to ventilate the basement for say a week and then test again.

    It seems the house already has the required mitigation systems? They may not be effective if the house/basement has >> 4 pCi/l.

    Also, consider FredGarvin's comments.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2006
  21. Mar 18, 2006 #20
    Are you talking about "drain tile" here? Which is the perforated pipe that is under the slab and drains into a pit in the basement, where the sump pump is. Do you have a sump pump or even a basement? The reason why I ask is this is a good starting point on how how much radon is getting into the house in the first place. (When installing, the perferred method was utilizing the existing drain tile, by covering the sump pit and using this as the suction point.)

    I think here it's a double-edge sword. A potential buyer could be turned off by the un-asthetic quality of having a 4" pipe running up through the house. Here I state that that most housing designs don't have many points in the house where you can route it without going into "living spaces". The places that are the best are usually already occupied by plumbing vents. Then the other alternative is running it out the side of the house and up past the roofline. Un-appealing as well.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook