The home buying process is complex and filled with seemingly endless paperwork, documentation and what often seem to be unnecessary formalities.

Each step in the process is important, however. And some of these steps could safeguard your health or even your life. Obviously, inspecting a home’s electrical systems as well as its structural integrity can ensure a buyer that a home is safe to occupy. But there is one test you should consider having done on 


your prospective home that could warn you about invisible yet serious potential threats to your health.

Testing for elevated levels of radon gas should be on the “to-do” list for every home buyer.

What is radon and why you should test for it

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has been linked to cancer and respiratory diseases. Radon is created as uranium, thorium or radium – all radioactive metals – break down in rocks, soil and groundwater. The gas seeps through cracks and gaps in soil and in building foundations and as a result, can collect in high levels in basements of buildings.

Colorless and odorless, when it reaches sufficiently high concentrations, radon has been definitively linked to lung cancer and may be a cause of other respiratory illnesses such as pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema and chronic interstitial lung disease.

Radon’s link to lung cancer is clear and unsettling. An estimated 21,000 people in the U.S. die annually from lung cancer caused by radon exposure, making it the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon is ranked as the second leading cause of lung cancer overall in the U.S.

Despite extensive research, there is currently no known “safe” level of radon gas exposure.

Testing for radon

Though radon gas is odorless and invisible, it can be detected through a variety of readily available, highly accurate tests. Radon gas testing essentially breaks down into two types; short-term and long-term.

Short-term testing measures radon levels (usually in a home’s basement where radon typically collects) over a span of two to 90 days. This testing will give you a quick, accurate assessment of the current radon level in your home or one you are considering purchasing.

Long-term testing measures radon gas levels for periods of more than 90 days. As radon gas levels often fluctuate throughout the year due to changes in weather, long-term tests can provide more accurate information as to the average level of radon in a home.

Do-it-yourself test kits are inexpensive and readily available in many hardware stores, home improvement centers or online. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends hiring a qualified radon tester. The EPA also recommends contacting your state’s radon office for specific information and resources in your area for testing and for a list of qualified radon testers.

Isn’t radon testing legally required when buying or selling a home?

Unfortunately, radon testing is not required by all states when buying, selling, or leasing a home. Missouri, for example, does not require radon testing, though Illinois does.

Though radon testing is not required in Missouri and 24 other states, buyers can request a radon test as part of the home inspection process. Considering the serious health risks, and the fact that high radon gas levels are found in 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. and that radon mitigation can be expensive, buyers should insist on a radon test before purchasing a home.

Talk to an experienced loan officer if you are considering the purchase of a home.

The loan officers at SmartMortgage have experience in supporting countless buyers seeking conventional and innovative financing for homes. Regardless of your situation, our loan officers will support you from application to closing and are ready to help you. Contact us today and get the professional advice and service you need.

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The above information is for educational purposes only. All information, loan programs and interest rates are subject to change without notice. All loans subject to underwriter approval. Terms and conditions apply. Always consult an accountant or tax advisor for full eligibility requirements on tax deduction.