Founders Message: Learn something new everyday by Roland Hopkins of NYREJ

Roland Hopkins, NYREJ Roland Hopkins, NYREJ

Some wise man or wise guy stated that that clichés remain true no matter how old – and I believe he has been proven to be right. "Learn something new everyday" may not fall into the category, but personally if I haven’t learned something new by five in the afternoon, I wonder if I’ve wasted that particular day.

How about you? Ever hear of the word Radon? I confess that even though I have been connected to the real estate industry for over 50 years I have never heard the word even whispered. Maybe you have. It is a chemical element with radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless gas occurring naturally as a decay product of radium. Its most stable isotope lasts a half life of 3.8 days. The surgeon general’s office has estimated that as many a 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by Radon.

A  family whose home is exposed to Radon levels of over 4 pci/i  is exposed to approximately 35 times a much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to a fence of a radioactive waste site. An elementary school student who spends eight hours per day and 180 days per year in a classroom with 4pci/i of Radon will receive nearly 10 times as much radiation as  the NRC allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant. Most EPA lifetime safety standards for natural, everyday carcinogens are established based on 1 in 100,000 risk of death. Most scientists agree that the same risk for Radon at 4pci/i is one in a hundred. In other words, there are no safe levels of Radon gas.

Radon easily penetrates many common materials like paper, leather, plastic bags, paints – and building material like gypsum, sheetrock, concrete block, mortar, tarpaper, wood paneling and most insulations. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases well water may also be a source of Radon. Obviously, the older the property, whether an apartment building, office building, school, church, condo, warehouse, nursing home, hospital, store block, shopping center, etc. invisible, smell-free Radon can be hiding anywhere. There are no immediate systems that will warn of its existence. It typically takes years of exposure before any major problems surface.

What’s the Radon answer? Radon Test Kits exist at your neighborhood hardware store, and there are licensed professionals who are often home inspectors. The EPA recommends that all buildings, big and small be tested for Radon. The EPA and the surgeon general recommends testing all buildings below the 3rd floor for Radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in all buildings all over the U.S. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water, and gets into the air we all breath. It moves up through the ground into the air above and into buildings through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Nearly one out of very 15 homes in the USA is estimated to have an elevated Radon level of 4 pci/i or more.

Hold onto your hats. Radon can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well established venting techniques. And I checked and discovered that more MLS groups are including the word "Radon" in their literature forms handed out to prospective buyers.

By the way, you probably had already heard all about Radon, so what did you learn today?

Roland Hopkins is founder of the NYREJ, Norwell, Mass.