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.