Confusing the Consumer

While it is true that the Alpha emitting RDP’s cannot penetrate paper, sharing this information with consumers can be very confusing. As you know, Alpha RDP’s are massive and slow moving, preventing them from penetrating solid objects such as paper (contrary to their beta and gamma counterparts). However, sharing this information without noting that the radon gas itself can penetrate solid, yet porous objects such as concrete can be very misleading.

I recently had an irate and confused Realtor call me because her listing tested very high. Prior to listing, she had her clients seal all the cracks in the basement foundation and crawlspace including sill plate, window framing, plumbing/electrical chases, etc. As well, she had them put down a layer of house wrap (yes, house wrap) with a subsequent layer of visqueen that was secured to the foundation walls with nails. She was confused as to why the radon levels were so high because she was once told by a local mitigator that “radon” could not even penetrate a sheet a paper.

I spent over an hour educating this Realtor on the physics of radon and why the fragmented information she received was misleading. Although she was thankful for the time I spent with her, she was frustrated at her marginal understanding of the physics lesson I gave her and even more frustrated that she set her seller up for a false expectation.

I often receive calls from frustrated Realtors in many different Illinois markets who have felt (justifiably) mislead because a licensee suggested “temporary” mitigation efforts in response to an elevated radon test.

As a mitigation or measurement licensee, you must remember that the “tips” (i.e. sealing crawlspaces, foundation cracks, etc.) offered to help sellers lower their radon levels prior to testing are considered elements of a permanent mitigation system and not intended as stand-alone attempts.

Ref: IL 32 Admin. Code 422.150(H)1(A-B)

Measurement professionals: use great caution when making any recommendation to your clients (Realtors or homeowners) related to mitigation. Some recommendations may be out of your scope and counterproductive (i.e. ventilating a crawlspace, cost, location of suction pits, etc.). These recommendations are a nuisance to mitigation professionals and will complicate the real estate transaction for all parties involved.

For example, if a seller had low results from a previous test, these efforts may be counter-productive as it is very possible that these attempts may increase radon levels. Frustrating consumers and Realtors is only a waste of your time and could cost you business.

Friends and colleagues, it is our duty to educate our clients and assist them in pragmatic attempts to permanently lower radon levels. However, we must be discerning in the content we share and how we share it to prevent setting up consumers for unrealistic expectations and disappointment. Both of these scenarios will cost you time and probably money in lost business.