Have you heard of radon? It’s an odorless, tasteless gas that can cause lung cancer, even among people who have never smoked. It occurs naturally as rocks break down and decay under the soil. Radon levels in homes are usually highest in basements. Levels of radon vary depending on where you live. Check out this map to see the radon levels typical of where you live: http://www.radon.com/maps/
If you haven't tested your home for radon, or you last tested several years ago, you might want to test again. You can buy a test at Home Depot for less than $15. You just follow the instructions, leaving it in your basement for 2 - 4 days, then you send it off to a lab, and they send you the results. If your home tests above the 4.0 pCi/L limit that's considered safe, you can have a radon remediation company install a ventilation system in your home. It's not that much-- in our area it typically runs between $800 - $1500.
A home I sold recently tested above the legal limit for radon. The seller of the home was very surprised, because she had it tested about 13 years ago and it was well under the legal limit. In her case, the level in 2002 was 2.3, and when retested it was a 4.6. I decided to re-test our home, which we last tested in 2003. The same thing happened to us. In 2003, we were well under the legal limit at 2.7, and this time our home tested at 7.4 pCi/L. I don't know if our level went up so much because we've had new, more energy efficient windows installed in our basement, so there's less airflow, or if it had something to do with the earthquake we had a few years ago. But I'm glad I tested again.
In Montgomery County, where I live, a law was recently passed that will take effecton October 1, 2016. The law requires all sellers to have their homes tested for radon before placing them on the market, and to disclose the results of the radon test to all possible buyers. Some argue that this law could very well save lives. Others argue that buyers could just as easily test for radon once they’ve moved in, and the law just adds to the hoops sellers must jump through in order to sell their homes. What do you think?