Buyers are frequently having homes tested for radon after entering into a purchase agreement, but this was the first time I have seen a reading over 5 times the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) recommended action level.

 Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It is a heavy radioactive gas formed by the disintegration of uranium and radium in the ground. It seeps into your home through holes and cracks in the foundation. The average radon level in Minnesota is 3.8pCi/L which is like smoking 10 cigarettes a day. The EPA estimates 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year attributed to radon. Past and present smokers are at a greater risk than non-smokers.

The seller I was representing had a radon level of 19.5 pCi/L. The buyer requested a radon mitigation system be installed prior to closing at the seller’s expense.

 The EPA recommends radon mitigation when radon test results are 4.0 pCi/L or greater. The concentration of radon in the home is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). Radon levels less than 4.0 pCi/L still pose some risk and in many cases may be reduced. If the radon level in the home is between 2.0 and 4.0 pCi/L, the EPA still recommends that you consider fixing the home. The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L; roughly 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The higher the home radon level, the greater the health risk. Even homes with very high radon levels can be reduced to below 4.0 pCi/l and many homes can be reduced to 2.0 pCi/lLor less.

 To mitigate radon, most homes need a sub slab depressurization system and sealing of any openings in the basement floor. My client had a fan and a 3” pipe installed to draw air from below the basement floor up through the roof.  This cost my client about $1200 and the contractor guaranteed the radon would stay below 4.0pCi/I, as long as it remained in use.

 In the 550XX zip codes north of I-94, it is estimated that 23% of homes have radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L.

 If you are buying a home, it is a good idea to have it tested for radon, as the seller will most likely pay for the mitigation. If you haven’t had your home tested, it is a good idea to do so, to ensure you are living in a healthy home. An experienced real estate agent can give you advice on how to have your home tested.

Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.