Frequently Asked Questions about Radon

Q: What is radon?

A: Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, you’re at high risk for developing lung cancer. Some scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage.


Q: Is radon common in the Pacific Northwest?

A: Yes, very common! It is estimated that 1 out of 4 homes in Portland have elevated levels of radon, whereas the national average is closer to 1 out of 15 homes. Oregon sits on a lot of granite, which is how radon is formed.


Q: How does radon get in the home?

A: Air pressure inside your home is usually lower than the pressure in the soil around your home’s foundation. Because of this difference in pressure, your house acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings. Your home then traps the radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.


Q: How do you know if your home has radon?

A: A common way for home owners to test for radon in Portland involves using activated charcoal kits that are analyzed by laboratories. Short term tests range from between 2 to 7 days, while long term tests can take several months or longer. The longer the test duration, the more accurate your test results will be. Processing of the activated charcoal tests can take weeks for consumers, however, so may not be an option for a time sensitive real estate transaction.


Q: At what point is radon dangerous?

A: The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) suggests fixing the problem if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter, or pCi/L, or higher. However, radon levels less than 4 pCi/L can still pose a risk and, in many cases, may be recuded.


Q: How do you deal with radon in a home?

A: If you discover that you have elevated radon levels in Portland, you should compare multiple bids from qualified radon mitigation contractors to make sure you’re getting a good deal. The costs can vary depending on soil conditions and the home’s construction, but radon reduction systems in Portland generally cost between $1,600 and $5,000. The mitigation system is quick to install, does not affect the quality of life of the inhabitants, and lasts for many years.


Q: Does having radon lower the value of a home?

A: Not at all! Radon occurs fairly randomly, so a home with radon happens by chance, not because of a flaw in the home. A radon mitigation system can actually be a potential benefit to buyers!