We are very strongly urging our home inspection clients to have a radon test performed before making a final decision about whether to purchase a home. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can be dangerous when it builds up inside of confined spaces. It is estimated that 20,000 people die each year due to exposure to radon, and it is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers (number two overall). 25% of homes within Chicago and 40% of those in the suburbs that have been tested have come back with results showing radon levels above EPA safety guidelines. Due to the relatively small number of homes that currently get tested, the percentage of homes with dangerous levels of radon could actually be much higher.
Dangerous levels of radon can be mitigated by a system that removes it from inside a home, where it becomes diluted in the air. While a radon test costs money (approx. $175-350), it is nowhere near the cost of a mitigation system (approx. $900-1,500+).
That is why we recommend having a radon test performed during the inspection/attorney approval period of your contract. If the test comes back showing dangerous levels, there is a good chance that your attorney may be able to get the seller of the home to pay for the mitigation. This is because test results must be filed with the State of Illinois. If the seller does not wish to make that concession to you, the test results will be on public record, possibly hurting any future attempts they might make to sell the home.