There’s always something to howl about

World Health Organization lowers the safe breathing radon gas level: further complicating Real Estate transactions

New standards released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on September 23, 2009 have taken a huge stance on the odorless cancer causing, radon gas.  The World Health Organization has taken the already safe4.0 pCi/L and reduced the safe breathing gas level down to 2.7 pCi/!  Who cares, right?  Well, I care especially living the Midwest where we have basements.  Basements are a wonderful source for radon gas leaking into the home through cracks in the basement floor.

You’re writing an offer to purchase with a customer and it’s determined for the safety of the family you’ll go ahead with a radon gas test.  Typically radon gas tests start out at $125 up till about $175 in the Wisconsin market.  The home inspector you’ve hired happens to also tests for radon gas so he kills two birds with one stone.  The home inspector hands over his findings; the report states the average level of radon gas in the basement is 3.2pCi/L.  Perfect were all set to go!  Actually we are not.  The buying side of the transaction states the NEW industry standard is now 2.7pCi/L according to the World Health Organization!  The Selling side states, the World Health Organization does not over-ride the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe operating level of 4.0pCi/L.

The Realtor now has a problem that needs to solved between buyer and seller in order to get a commission.  Who is correct is this matter; buyer or seller?  Remember…RADON kills…right?

The National Association of REALTORS has advised the EPA standard is still operative or law. The World Health Organization’s suggested standard has no legal or regulatory status as a binding authority.

READERS!  IT’S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND —> As industry professionals we need to draft accurate contracts without complicating our transactions.  Simple and Effective are the two words that immediately come to mind.  Remember to specify in your contracts what level of radon is acceptable before mitigation is required.   Just because we know the EPA standards legally apply, does not mean the buyer uses the EPA standard even though its law.

Below I plagiarized a statistical graph from the website.

EPA estimates
that radon
of cancer
deaths in
the U.S.
each year.
radon health risks
* Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA’s 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2005-2006 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2006 National Safety Council Reports.

3 Comments so far

  1. Michael Dix September 29th, 2009 10:15 pm

    I would like to understand the method used to identify the mechanism of radon gases on lungs as compared to other contributing factors. Is this data based on experiments with lab animals? or some other study.

  2. Dan September 30th, 2009 10:05 am

    By definition you cannot “plagiarize” Government information.

  3. Greg Dallaire September 30th, 2009 7:34 pm


    Radon gas is something that I have to combat on a day to day business in Green Bay. I always wondered where this testing was 20 years ago and how now it appears to be dangerous.

    Wonder if this is like how CO2 is so bad for the earth. Who know’s it’s defintealy something that will not go away and we need to educate our clients and ourselves on how to handle these transactions.