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Your Realtor is Wrong. Radon CAN be High in Chicago

chicago radon testing

With spring finally making its appearance in Chicago, real estate agents are in full swing and that means radon testing. I’ve heard a peculiar comment from a number of agents. “Radon isn’t high in Chicago,” I am told. “I can’t understand why the buyers are even wasting their money on radon testing.”

Please know this is a myth.  Radon can be high in Chicago!  It’s true that there is a higher prevalence of elevated radon in the surrounding towns and counties. However, just because the suburbs are higher doesn’t mean that Chicago homes are immune to dangerous levels of radon.

Radon can be High in Chicago

First off, radon is known to be high in many parts of Chicago.  Based on data from the IEMA 1, there are over 20 zip codes in the city that had dangerous levels in 5% or more of properties tested.  Considering this is a carcinogen, the risks are high enough to warrant testing in all Chicago homes during real estate transactions.

Here are the 21 zip codes in Chicago that have had 5% or more of tests coming out above 4.0 pCi/L, which is the state and federal action level:

60602, 60618, 60620, 60622, 60624, 60625, 60628, 60629, 60630, 60631, 60634, 60636, 60638, 60641, 60643, 60644, 60647, 60651, 60654, 60655, and 60659 (See Footnote #1).

Even Low Radon Areas Should be Tested

Even in zip codes not listed above, you should still get radon tested. It is the only way to really know what the levels are in a home.  You can have neighbors that have low radon, but because of where uranium deposits are found naturally underground, you can still have dangerously high levels in your property.  The averages may be low in an area, but a single home can still be high. The EPA created a map showing counties that have elevated levels (similar to FEMA’s flood maps), but this can only create a false sense of security.  A map cannot tell you if a house you are considering has low radon – only testing will give you that assurance.

The owner of our company had a radon level of 17 pCi/L in his Wicker Park home. His neighbors 5 feet away were below 2 pCi/L!

Radon Testing isn’t Expensive

Finally, let it be said that the cost of testing is much cheaper than cancer treatment.  If elevated levels are found during the process of a real estate transaction, the costs for mitigation may even be covered by the seller.  I recently had a mitigation system installed in my house and was surprised at the relatively low price. Quotes were around $1,500, which is cheaper than many common home repairs.  A seller may even consider testing their home prior to putting it on the market to provide some peace of mind to the buyers and avoid surprises when the home is under contract.

So the next time you hear a real estate agent tell you that you don’t have to worry about elevated levels of radon in Chicago, don’t be misled.  Radon can happen anywhere, so please get your home tested.

  1. https://maps.iema.state.il.us/RADON31a/PGS/county.cfm?cnty=Cook&FIPS=17031

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”

2 thoughts on “Your Realtor is Wrong. Radon CAN be High in Chicago

    We are wanting to buy a house, the basement had included below mold reading. How severe does these reading looks to you. Please guide.

    Spore Types Raw count Count/M % of Total
    Alternaria (Ulocladium 1 40 .9
    Ascospores 3 100 2.3
    Aspergillus/Penicillium 63 2700 61.1
    Basidiospores 12 250 11.8
    Cladosporium 17 740 16.7

    How bad this report looks? we have not diagnosed the mold spot. Should we not buy this house. It seems the remediation cost can be a lot..

    The Asp/Pen appear slightly elevated, however, this is not uncommon in a basement. Without more information, there is not anything else I can determine from these results