Radon occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium found in rocks, soil and sometimes well water. It can seep into homes through the foundation, cracks in the slab, sump pumps, plumbing pipes and crawl spaces. The inspectors say it is a serious and dangerous carcinogen.
“The campaign to educate the public has been slow, even though the Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and many others have expressed the need for education and testing,” said Branch, a home inspector based in Flagstaff.
He says radon is a health risk with a simple solution. “We want to help.”
The three have created a non-profit Facebook page to help inform the community: Radon Professionals of Northern Arizona: FB.me/RPNAz. In addition, they recently delivered a presentation to the Northern Arizona Association of Realtors, which is now available on YouTube, “Radon Certification – Implications & Value.”
Branch and McCartney each own home inspection companies in Flagstaff. Ramsey is an environmental specialist and experienced radon professional. They are the only three people north of Phoenix qualified and certified to test for radon.
From tests he has conducted, Ramsey says about 30 percent of Flagstaff homes have measurable radon. In Prescott, that number is significantly higher because of the high amount of granite. Sedona seems to have the least amount in Northern Arizona.
“I am finding lots of housing [in Prescott] uses ground up granite for fill under the slab,” said Ramsey, who notes that the most challenging part of his job is finding ways to provide information to the community about the deadly gas.
The inspectors say radon is in every house in the world at various levels, but because it is invisible, odorless and tasteless, people are not concerned about it.
“Just because there is radon in the house doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the house or be looking to move,” said McCartney, who recommends a radon test become part of the home inspection routine at the time of sale. “It should be added to the ‘staying healthy’ list along with: stop smoking, eat your greens, lower stress and be more active.”
The test takes 60 hours or two-and-a-half days and costs between $150 and $250. If levels are dangerously high, treatment can cost around $1,500. Sometimes, the fix is permanent; other times, the site requires follow up visits.
Do-it-yourself radon tests can be purchased at a local home store, but their accuracy cannot be guaranteed, McCartney says. “It can give you an idea, but I don’t recommend them because the results can be hit-or-miss due to improper test protocols and interpretations.”
“It doesn’t need to be scary,” said Branch. “Testing for radiation is fairly straightforward, but interpreting the results has serious implications. “There are people doing inspections who aren’t certified because Arizona doesn’t regulate it. We know how to interpret the results.”
Noting that an unqualified person might pronounce the home safe when it is not, or prescribe unneeded mitigation, Branch offers to review others’ inspection results for free for homebuyers and realtors. QCBN
By Patty McCormac, QCBN
For more information, Bill Branch with 121 PRO Inspections, Drew Ramsey with Architectural and Environmental Associates and John McCartney with Almost Home Inspection Services can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.