Thursday, December 26, 2013

Radon - Fact vs Fiction & the next scare inspectors want to cash in on.

The comments below are not to imply that I am an expert but an experienced REALTOR® that has seen over the years far too many home sales/purchases collapse because a so-called expert gave advice without things being put into perspective.

I am writing this blog to give a general heads up and suggest that you do not take what so called experts are saying as the gospel, especially when they have alot to gain financially. Do your own homework on what is worth worrying about and more importantly the money you may spend. Risk vs Cost vs Peace of (educated) Mind.

A quick summary:

For this blog my big issues is with what I am hearing from some inspectors that say radon testing should be part of a home inspection and charge an additional $100 to $300 for a short term 1 to 7 day test. Suggesting to do a short term test for radon is no different that saying lets test for oxygen or carbon dioxide. There is no doubt that Radon is there, but what you want to know is it a potential problem, which can only be done with a long term testing as per Health Canada, World Health Organization & National Cancer Institute that all comment that a short term test is not reliable enough. That a 3 to 12 months minimum is required, especially if one is going to use the information to renegotiate or even kill a home purchase over it. Here is a link to both the World Health Organization report and the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013.

  1. I have highlighted and made notes in the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013.  Note PDF pages 36, 43, 44, 55.
  2. In the World Health Organization Report. Note PDF pages 11, 12, 18, 22, 23, 24, 36, 38, 40, 43, 44, 93.

The purpose of this blog is to caution against using results gathered from some inspectors that charge you for short term test and implying a decision whether to buy a home or not can rest on that. A long term test appears to be the only true reliable way to test which I do encourage. The only way an inspector can make money is on short term tests not long term tests.

I have been a REALTOR® for many years and have seen the development of many (in my opinion) scare tactics to home buyers and sellers which has lead to hundreds and thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs. Most of these scare items seem to come under the environmental subject. One example, for many years is homeowners being duped or pressured into paying big bucks to remove vermiculite insulation that contains less than 2% asbestos found in an attic. Yet some environmental engineers, inspectors, and others will say you need to remove it at the cost of $6000 to $10,000 on average. If prodded they will admit that there is no health hazard if its left alone. Yes if you go up in the attic and stick your head down in it and breath deep then you may have opened yourself to a health hazard, but so is playing on a busy street or having 4 spoons of sugar in your coffee etc etc.

Now as a REALTOR® I'm hearing again with more frequency about a new scare tactic, in my opinion. But you won't hear much until those wanting to profit are organized, have their equipment and are ready to work. Whats the latest? Well its been around a long time but recently it is being pumped up again. It's Radon! Yup a radioactive gas that is formed naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water found in trace amounts around the world. It is found everywhere just like oxygen & carbon dioxide. I'm not against getting your home tested but it should be done over a long period of time (3 months minimum) as per Heath Canada and at a very reasonable cost. (I bought a long term test meter for $139, see note below).

There are many many more issues/scare tactics that come under the environmental theme and the one big common factor they all seem to have is, it normally costs consumers a ton of money to solve. But not radon if you're smart about things.

There is alot of conflicting info on Radon out there and in the US it appears the radon inspectors have really figured out a way to do a cash grab on home buyers and sellers which can falsely affect home deals base on these inaccurate short term testing results.

1 - Health Canada quote - “Health Canada recommends that the radon test performed in a home or public building be a long-term measurement. Health Canada does not recommend a test of duration less than 1 month, a minimum of 3 months is recommended and 12 months is optimum since radon concentrations vary over time.”

2 - Forensic-Applications quote - "A large portion of the general population is under the impression that the scientific community has concluded that exposure to indoor radon conclusively causes cancer, and that there is scientific consensus of this fact. Most people are not aware of the fact that there are actually no conclusive studies that have ever demonstrated that exposure to indoor radon, as commonly seen in the overwhelming vast majority of houses, increases the risk of cancer by any amount, and in fact, in the larger and better studies, what we see is that the risk of cancer actually goes down with increasing radon concentrations; to a critical elevated level (not seen in houses) wherein the risk then begins to rise. But those kinds of radon levels where risk increases is virtually never seen in houses."

3 - World Health Organization quote - “At least 40 case-control studies of indoor radon and lung cancer have now been conducted. Individually, most of these studies have not been large enough either to rule out an increased risk or to provide clear evidence that an increased risk existed.”
Here is link, see PDF page 23 -

Radon Map for Canada -

To solve my curiosity I have ordered online a "Safety Siren Pro Series3 Radon Gas Detector, HS79712 Canada version" for $139 (price within reason and recommended by Consumer Reports). There are many more products and prices available online.

Once I have used it on my home it will be free to borrow and use to any of my clients.

Again the purpose of this blog is to caution against using results gathered from some inspectors that charge you for short term test (which is the only way for them to make money as long term testing is not feasible for them) and implying a decision whether to buy a home or not can rest on that. A long term test appears to be the only true reliable way to test which I do encourage.


Dean Birks

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