Radon Gas – What You Should Know

Most people have heard the word radon before, but many probably do not understand what it is.  As found in the EPA’s “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon”

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You can’t see radon. And you can’t smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home.

Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That’s because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

I was recently working with a buyer who during the inspection process also requested a radon test because he was planning to put an office in the basement and consequently would be spending a lot of time there.  When we received the results back from the test we found out that the levels were significantly above the EPA action level of 4.0.

At first I thought: “damn, this could be really expensive to mitigate.”  After speaking to my colleagues and to a couple of mitigation contractors, we found out that the process is relatively easy and not very expensive at all.

The process typically involves digging a hole in the foundation about the size of a 5 gallon pail and then installing solid PVC piping from the hole up through the roof line, with something similar in size to a bath fan installed in the piping in the attic.  This fan exhausts the radon gas up and out the roof where it dissipates quickly.  In houses that have a drain tile system installed the installation can typically get the radon levels below 1.0 because of the efficiency of the drain tile at getting a broad suction around the foundation.

Once the system is installed the contractor will run a second test to confirm that the radon levels have been brought down within safe limits.  If the level is still elevated, a larger fan typically resolves the problem.

Depending on the contractor chosen and the difficulty of the work to be done, most projects are in the $1000 – $1800 range and can be completed in a day!

The contractor we used for my client’s home was Brad Nyberg from Quality Radon, 612-521-3580.  He did a great job and has nearly two decades of experience installing these systems and has been training others for many years as well.


  1. says

    My applause Aaron! If I find anyone in the real estate market in Minnesota, I will give them your name.

    Radon, is as you say, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Nationally one in fifteen homes are affected. In Minnesota, the Department of Health recently issued an alert that one in three homes have abnormal levels of radon. This translates into one in a hundred Minnesotans developing lung cancer from this entirely avoidable cause. The costs you mention above seem quite trivial in that light! Thanks for raising awareness!!

    Lynne Eldridge M.D.
    Author, “Avoiding Cancer One Day At A Time, practical advice for preventing cancer”