Radon, element 86 on the periodic table, is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, produced as a by-product of the decay of trace uranium in the soil. The EPA has linked exposure to radon gas to an increased chance of developing lung cancer, and as ranked radon exposure as the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the US, behind smoking.
Radon gas is colorless and odorless. It is also heavier than air but lighter than soil, causing it to tend to collect in basements or lower levels in homes. As it escapes the soil, the gas takes the path of least resistance upwards, meaning that local geology is the only effective component to where radon may be found; the age of a house, or the radon levels in nearby homes do not have a significant impact on a particular house's radon levels. While it is less likely to have high radon levels in homes without basements, our inspectors have seen this occur.
The only effective way to know if a particular house has a higher than average radon concentration is to perform a radon test. Our tests comply with all EPA regulations and standards, and the results are admissible for real estate transactions.
Hurlbert Home Inspection echos the EPA recommendation that all newly bought-or-sold homes be tested for high radon levels. Additionally, the EPA recommends periodic retesting every 2 to 5 years, as local geology and soil conditions do change over time.
For additional information, please see the EPA's radon website at here.