I’ve recently started hearing reports about radon in Alberta homes. If I’m buying a home in Alberta, is it something I should be concerned about?

You’re right to be asking this question. A lot of people aren’t familiar with radon, but they should be.

Radon is an odourless, tasteless, colourless radioactive gas that is the by-product of uranium decay. Uranium occurs naturally in soil and rock formations, and places with higher than normal uranium deposits, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, have higher radon levels.

Radon seeps through the earth and into basements, where it can become trapped because of the efficient way our homes are sealed from the outside elements.

Prolonged exposure to radon can lead to health problems, including lung cancer. In fact, after smoking, radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer.
Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done during the offer and negotiation phase of a real estate transaction because reliable radon tests take 90 days to complete. That’s much longer than a typical offer to purchase timeline and time for condition removal.

However, some Alberta homeowners are having their homes tested for radon knowing what a serious health issue it is. If you find a home you’re interested in, ask the seller if they’ve had their home tested and ask for the test results. If the radon test showed high levels of radon (higher than 200 Becquerel), that’s considered a material latent defect that MUST be disclosed to prospective buyers unless a radon mitigation device is installed prior to listing.

The good news when it comes to radon is it’s a solvable problem. Even if you fall in love with a home that hasn’t had a radon test or the results are high, a radon mitigation device can be installed to vent radon gas outside the home from the basement. Mitigation costs vary, but are often not more than $2,000-$3,000. Hire a Certified Radon Technician to install the device to ensure it’s done properly.

If you buy a home that hasn’t had a radon test done, we encourage you to proceed with a radon test within 90 days of possession. This is health issue, and radon testing and mitigation is money well-spent. For more information about radon, go to Health Canada’s website and search “radon.”

“Ask Charles” is a question and answer column by Charles Stevenson, Director of Professional Standards with the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA), www.reca.ca. RECA is the independent, non-government agency responsible for the regulation of Alberta’s real estate industry. We license, govern, and set the standards of practice for all real estate, mortgage brokerage, and real estate appraisal professionals in Alberta. To submit a question, email askcharles@reca.ca.