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Home Safety: Why Radon Testing is a Must When Buying a New Home

Home Safety: Why Radon Testing is a Must When Buying a New Home

If you’re house-hunting, you might be primarily looking at how the houses look, how they function, how they line up with your must-have list, and how they make you feel. While all of these are important, it’s also vital to know the house is safe for you and your family members. Radon testing is something you should consider having done during the inspection period.

Here are the topics you should know about when it comes to radon:

  • Understanding what radon is
  • Realizing why radon testing is important
  • Getting to know the testing process

Let’s delve into the world of radon testing, so you can be prepared to protect yourself.

Understanding What Radon Is

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally. It’s colorless, odorless, and tasteless, so the only way you’d know that radon exists in your new home is if you were to hire a professional to perform radon testing. It comes from the breakdown of uranium; this usually occurs in soil and rock, and it can also occur in water. It then seeps up into the home.

Long-term exposure to radon gas can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon exposure is second only to smoking as a leading cause of lung cancer. The CDC reports that according to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon causes 21,000 deaths from lung cancer each year in the USA. If you don’t smoke but are exposed to radon, you have a 10 times greater risk of developing lung cancer than other non-smokers who have not been exposed to radon.

Realizing Why Radon Testing Is Important

While there are other times to test for radon, such as when you’re going to be doing major renovation or when you’re turning a basement into living space, it’s vital to do so when you’re under contract for a house. This is the case whether you’re buying a brand-new house straight from the builder or a pre-existing house that people have lived in for years, decades, or even centuries.

The main reason you’d want radon testing in a new (or new-to-you) home is to protect your health. Since elevated radon levels can cause lung problems, including cancer, you’ll want to know the home is safe before the closing date.

If the radon test shows elevated levels, you’ll want that information, as it gives you negotiating power. If you were to wait until after you’ve already signed on the dotted line, you can’t go back and re-negotiate the sale. If you discover high radon, you might ask the seller to perform radon mitigation at their expense or to drop the price enough to allow you to use those funds to have the mitigation done yourself before moving in or shortly thereafter.

Finally, testing for radon gives you peace of mind as you move in with your family. It’s one less thing to worry about if you know the house isn’t a source of radon or that the problem has been addressed.

Getting to Know the Testing Process

Radon testing is simple and mostly unobtrusive. It’s best to have it professionally done, as the potential for user error is fairly high. When testing before a sale, you’ll be having short-term testing done. 

This is when an indicator is hung somewhere in the home that isn’t near a masonry wall or in a room with a door to the outside. It’s important for the windows to stay closed in that room to allow the test to work properly. After the specified number of days have passed, the indicator is examined to look for the level of radon in the air.

If the radon levels in the home are above 4 pCi/L, mitigation is needed. If it’s between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L, you should consider having mitigation done. Ideally, the levels in a home should be under 2 pCi/L for the smallest risk. Learn more in the Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.


While radon is a risk, it’s nothing to panic over. Even if the house you’re planning to buy has high radon levels, mitigation is safe and effective. As long as you have radon testing done before you close on your mortgage, you’ll be well on your way to having a safe, radon-free home that won’t raise your risk or your family’s risk of developing lung cancer.