radonI am buying a home.  What do I need to know about Radon?


Don’t Ignore It! Radon is a Serious Health Issue

Radon is a radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell or taste and can get into your home undetected. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. When radon escapes from the ground into the outdoor air it is diluted to low concentrations and is no cause for concern. However, when radon enters an enclosed space, like a home, it can accumulate to high levels and become a health hazard. Reducing radon in your home is straightforward. A radon mitigation system can be installed in less than a day and in most homes will reduce the radon level by more than 80%. Hire a certified radon professional to help you reduce radon levels in your home.

Be Sure to Do a Long-Term Test

Health Canada recommends that houses be tested for a minimum of 3 months, ideally between September and April when windows and doors are typically kept closed. Almost all homes have some radon in them, the question is how much. The only way to know is to measure. Radon levels in a home can vary a lot from hour to hour and day to day, so the most accurate way to find out if you have a problem is to measure radon levels in your home for at least 3 months.

Radon testing is easy and inexpensive. There are two options: purchase a do-it-yourself test kit or hire a radon measurement professional. Do-it-yourself kits include instructions on how to set up the test and submit the results for analysis. Radon test kits can be purchased by phone, online, or from home improvement retailers. For professional testing, Health Canada recommends consulting with a contractor certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C- NRPP). Radon-testing professionals are located throughout Canada and a list can be found on their website: www.c-nrpp.ca or by calling 1-855-722-6777.

Reducing Radon Levels in a Home

For radon levels that are above the Canadian guideline of 200 Bq/m³ (Becquerels per metre cubed), Health Canada recommends that you act to lower the levels. The higher the radon concentrations, the sooner action should be taken to reduce levels to as low as practically possible. While the health risk from radon exposure below the Canadian Guideline is small, there is no level that is considered risk free. It is the choice of each homeowner to decide what level of radon exposure they are willing to accept.

Lower the Radon Level in a Home, It’s Easy

If the radon level is high, reduce it! You should fix a home if the radon level is higher than the Canadian Guideline of 200 Bq/m³. Reducing the amount of radon in a home is easy. Techniques to lower radon levels are effective and can save lives. Radon levels in most homes can be reduced by more than 80% for about the same cost as other common home repairs such as replacing the furnace or air conditioner.

Sub-slab depressurization (also called active soil depressurization) is the most effective and reliable radon reduction technique. It is also the most common method used by C-NRPP certified professionals.

This method involves installing a pipe through the foundation floor slab and attaching a fan that runs continuously to draw the radon gas from below the home and release it into the outdoors where it is quickly diluted. This system also reverses the air pressure difference between the house and soil, reducing the amount of radon that is drawn into the home through the foundation. 

What are my Options as a Buyer?

Due to the time required to perform the long-term radon test, there are options you and your REALTOR® can discuss. Find out if the home has been previously tested for radon gas. If yes, request a copy of the test results. If the home has not been tested, or the results of a test are above 200 Bq/m³, then you may want to proceed with one of the following options:

  1. Make an offer on the property and have a long-term radon test performed after you move in, during the first heating season that you occupy the home.  After a long-term radon test is completed, you will know what the radon level is and whether it needs to be reduced. This ensures that the proper protocols and time frame required for Health Canada’s recommended testing is followed.
  2. Make an offer conditional on having a long-term radon test performed, choosing a closing date that is long enough to allow for the long-term test to be completed (a minimum of 91 days) and results provided. Be sure to state in your condition the consequences if the test result comes back higher than 200 Bq/ m³.
  3. Make an offer with a clause added for a long-term test, stating that the Seller agrees to put a negotiated amount in trust with the Buyer’s attorney towards the cost of mitigation, should the results of the test (completed after closing) be above 200 Bq/ m³. The funds would only be dispersed after documentation of the mitigation was completed. If radon testing is not above 200 Bq/ m³, the funds in trust would then be given to the Seller.

If you choose to go with option 3), the following clause could be inserted into your Agreement of Purchase and Sale contract:

The BUYER, at the BUYER’s expense, will conduct a long-term radon gas test starting on (insert date)
and ending on (insert date a minimum of 91 days after first date). A holdback of $ (insert amount) will be held in the BUYER’s lawyer’s trust account pending results of the test. If the result of the radon concentration test is equal to or exceeds 200 Bq/ m³, a copy of which will be provided to the SELLER/SELLER’s LAWYER/SELLER’s AGENT (select appropriate individuals and delete the rest) on or before (insert date), the holdback will be released to the BUYER for remediation purposes. If the test results show a concentration of less than 200 Bq/ m³ and remediation is not necessary, the holdback will be reimbursed to the SELLER.

NBREA, CREA, C-NRPP and the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (CARST) agree with Health Canada’s recommendations that homeowners use a long-term test—conducted over a minimum of three months during the fall or winter months. Indoor radon levels fluctuate day-to-day, depending on the season. A long-month test should be used to determine if a home’s radon concentration exceeds the Canadian guideline of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m³).

While short-term tests exist, they must be followed up with a long-term test, which provides a more representative annual average for radon exposure.  Do it once, do it right!

How Can I Find Out More?

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