January 28, 2018

Radon testing simple, inexpensive and can be a life saver


The Northeast Tennessee Associations of Realtors® (NETAR) joins the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reminding Tri-Cities area residents about the importance of getting their homes tested for radon.

Aaron Taylor
2018 NETAR President


Radon, a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that causes cancer, can build up to unsafe levels in any home at any time of year.  According to the Tennessee Radon Program, "it occurs naturally in most rocks and soil and is produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. The gas is harmless when dispersed in outdoor air, but when trapped in buildings can increase the risk of lung cancer, especially at elevated levels. It typically enters a home the same way air and other soil gases enter the home, through cracks in the foundation, floor or walls, hollow-block walls, and openings around pipes, sump pumps, and floor drains. It can also be present in some construction materials and in water from underground sources including private wells. Any home, regardless of age, energy-efficiency, or foundation type, could have a radon problem."

With many people spending more time in their homes during January, there is no better time to make sure those homes are radon-free. That's why the beginning of every new year is when residents are encouraged to get their homes tested as a common-sense step to prevent lung cancer.

Almost all the counties in our region have the highest predicted average indoor radon screening level. The exceptions are Johnson, Carter, and Unicoi counties. They in the moderate zone.

Radon test kits are available at hardware stores, home improvement centers, and online. They are inexpensive and come with easy-to-use testing and mailing instructions. Qualified radon professionals can also perform tests and fix elevated levels.

Millions of homes nationwide have elevated levels of radon. But because it's invisible and odorless, the only way to know if a house, school or other building has a radon problem is to get the building tested.

If elevated radon levels are discovered in your home, they should be mitigated.

For those who are building new homes, radon-resistant building techniques should be used. It is much more cost effective to prevent radon problems than it is to correct them in the future.

Builders can take the following four simple steps to deter radon from entering your home, according to Tennessee Indoor Radon Program Website.

- Install a layer of clean gravel or aggregate beneath the slab or flooring system.

- Lay polyethylene sheeting on top of the gravel layer.

- Include a gas-tight venting pipe from the gravel level through the building to the roof.

- Seal and caulk the foundation thoroughly.

These construction techniques will be familiar to builders, so there's no need to hire a special contractor or architect. Many builders already incorporate some of these steps in the construction of their houses to control moisture or increase energy efficiency. In fact, radon-resistant construction techniques can be found in the 1995 version of the One-and-Two Family Dwelling Code published by the Council of American Building Officials.

If you're buying or selling a home, a radon test will likely be part of the home inspection, but homeowners who are not in the market shouldn't wait. Although testing is easy and relatively inexpensive, only one in five homeowners has tested their homes for radon, according to the EPA.

Additional information on Radon, average levels in NE Tennessee counties can be found at

House Logic, a free service from the NAR also has articles on testing, mitigation. That resource can be trapped at

 Aaron Taylor is the 2018 president of the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors®. The real estate education and trade group is the voice for real estate in the Tri-Cities and has over 1,250 local Realtor® members and almost 100 affiliates.