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Show of hands, how many of you can name  the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States?

OK, the headline was the give-away, but that would be Radon Gas.

Radon is released by the decay of uranium, a naturally-occurring ore found in our soil. When released, Radon can seep through cracks in basements and foundations into our homes.

According to the U.S. EPA, one in every 15 homes in the United States have radon levels that exceed the recommended radon action level. In Illinois between 2003 and 2007, 42% of homes tested for radon gas had levels above the EPA radon action level. It is believed that Radon is responsible for an estimated 20,000 deaths per year in America.

Unlike tobacco usage where you pretty much know how carcinogens are introduced into the body, Radon is a much more insidious health problem - it is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon. You will never know you are being exposed to it, unless you specifically test the home you live in.

Illinois home sellers have been obligated to disclose test results and known radon hazards to prospective buyers for more than three years now.

Illinois Schools and Day Care Centers have been supposed to test for radon hazards too, based on recommendations in an amendment to the Illinois School Code that became effective in 2010.

Now, effective January 1, 2012, Illinois residential landlords are also going to be required to disclose test results and known hazards to tenants renting dwelling units below the third story above ground level.

A STRONG CAUTION FOR BUYERS & RENTERS - You must understand that the Radon Awareness law ONLY requires a disclosure of unsafe test results and known radon issues. The law DOES NOT mandate testing OR remediation.  

Fortunately, Home buyers can (and in my opinion) should give strong consideration to radon testing as a part of any professional home inspection. Tenants, particularly with young children, may wish to test before signing a lease. Test kits can be purchased at most hardware or home improvement stores. They are simple to use and relatively inexpensive.

If a  home or apartment has unsafe levels of radon, there are radon reduction systems that are effective and not too terribly costly. Quite often a seller can and will absorb the cost of remediation.

I am often asked whether or not Radon testing is worth while. It certainly adds to the cost of "due diligence" investigation for home buyers. Money is tight enough and closings are plenty expensive already, before adding in "optional" tests.

Well, certainly the health benefits cannot be over-stated. Of course you want to be healthy in the home you intend to live in. We all do. Check out these statistics from  the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) Radon Program for homes tested for Radon between 2003 and 2007:

COUNTY Pct. Of Homes Tested Pct. Of Homes with High Radon Levels
Cook                   0.40 %                                 25.50 %
DuPage                   4.40 %                                 39.50 %
Kane                          5.20 %                                 43.60 %
Will                           4.10 %                                 41.10 %

More than one quarter of all homes tested in Cook County during this five year period had Radon problems. more than one third of all homes in the "collar" counties did too.

Is testing worth the cost?  Boy I sure think so.


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