Posted by Glenn on December 01, 1999 at 19:39:30:
Now you’ve done it. You’ve got the old Physics teacher in me going.
Radon is a naturally occuring radioactive gas that is released from the ground into the air. It occurs in such low concentrations in the environment that it is effectively harmless. If, however, there is something covering the ground (like a house), the gas is trapped under that object, and can not reach the air. That makes the localized concentration under the house build up to a potentially unsafe level. The problem with this would not be bad, except for the fact that most houses have some opening(s) in the floor, such as drains, gas/water lines, etc. that allow the gas to leak into the house. This might not be a problem, except that the house is usually not well ventilated, since we seem to prefer to keep our houses at temperatures different than the outside air. Thus, a house with a radon build-up is a radiation hazard (cancer, etc.), which is undesirable.
To detect the radiation, look at a home supply type store for radon test kits. Follow the instructions to find out if the radon concentration is a problem.
If it is a problem, specialized contractors exist who will install abatement equipment to eliminate the leakage to the house. Basically this involves piping from under the foundation to a release above the roof, where it will be dispersed as it would if the house wasn’t there.
As far as the real estate investor is concerned, you want it tested and fixed at the current owner’s expense, not yours after you buy the property. So, I would advise finding out if Radon is a problem where you live, and make an inspection a standard pre-purchase requirement.
Hope this helps. I realize it is quite long. Sorry.