The EPA recommends that anyone who lives on the third floor or below in a condo test their home for radon, a colorless, odorless gas that’s the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Radon has turned up in condos in Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Tennessee, sometimes rising up several floors.
How does it get that high? It some cases, it emanates from the concrete used to build the condo; in others, it moves from the ground to upper floors via elevator shafts and stairwells.
Test for condo radon
To find out if your condo has radon:
- Use a $15 to $25 kit from the National Radon Program or buy one at your local hardware store for under $15.
- Contact your state radon program for discounted test kits or to find a qualified tester who’ll use professional equipment to test your condo for about $125 to $175.
What do the results mean? Radon expert Bill Brodhead of WPB Enterprises Inc. in Riegelsville, Pa., who’s researched condominium radon for the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, identifies this range:
- Above the EPA guideline of 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or higher: There’s a problem. Act now to get rid of radon.
- Below 2.0 pCi/L: Likely not much of a problem.
- Between 2.0 and 4.0 pCi/L: Re-test because the difference between the outside and indoor air temperature, as well as wind pressure, can skew radon test results. If you retest and you’re OK, you’re good to go. It wouldn’t hurt to test again in a few years, since the cost to test is so low and the risk to your health is so high.
Mitigate condo radon
If your test shows high radon levels, tell your condo board, as you will require radon gas mitigation. You can’t get rid of the concrete walls and radon doesn’t dissipate on its own, so you’ll need to increase the ventilation in your unit.
If radon is seeping into the building from the ground, your condo board may decide to tackle the problem at ground level.
The average single-family home radon mitigation system costs $800 to $2,500, according to Consumer Reports. A system for your individual condo could cost more, depending on the amount of work involved to hide the ductwork, and a building system could cost hundreds of thousands.
The condo board may be responsible for correcting the problem if the source of the radon is the common elements of the condominium. In that case, the condominium association might even be found liable if it failed to correct a problem. Some states require you to disclose a radon problem when you sell your home.