County Council Approves Radon Test Bill

Radon testThe Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved amended Bill 31-15 that will require most single-family homes be tested for radon prior to be being sold. According to county officials, Montgomery County is the first in the nation to mandate radon testing, ensuring that buyers and sellers and are informed of the possible existence of radon in their homes.

Bill 31-15 goes into effect next fall or in October 2016.

Councilmembers Craig Rice and Sidney Katz were the lead sponsors of the bill, which was enacted by a 9-0 vote. Councilmembers Marc Elrich and Tom Hucker were co-sponsors. Council President George Leventhal, Vice President Nancy Floreen and Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer also voted to approve the bill.

“The serious health consequences of radon and the great risk it poses remain largely unknown to people,” said Rice. “However, what we do know is that the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today, and the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, taking 21,000 lives a year. We also know that radon can be found in all homes, old or new, as the gas moves up through the ground into the home through cracks, holes in the foundation or even the groundwater. Montgomery County is situated in an area that experiences high levels of radon gas. That is why it so important that we passed this protection for homebuyers.”

High levels of radon gas can cause serious illness and often occur in single-family homes. Radon might be found in any home, but it is more likely to be present in older homes that were built when the dangers of radon were not considered. Many homes meeting that description can be found in Montgomery County.

Radon is already listed as one of the hazardous materials that a seller must disclose to the buyer of a single-family home if the seller has actual knowledge of its existence under Maryland State law. However, State law does not require a seller to determine if radon exists.

The bill requires that “a single-family home located in the County must be tested for radon before completing the sale. The radon test must be performed less than one year before the settlement date. The seller must either perform the test or permit the buyer to perform the test. Both the seller and the buyer must receive a copy of the results.”

The Council also amended the bill to provide for certain exceptions.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General have recommended testing all homes.

“Fortunately, testing is inexpensive and easy to do,” said Katz. “Do-It-Yourself radon test kits are available in local hardware stores and online for approximately $40, and that often includes the kit and lab results. The effort to do the testing is minimal, but the long-range impact it can have on the occupants of a home could be major. We need to protect the health of all residents in our County—and this legislation does this in a way that is meaningful to both the home buyer and the home seller.”

If it is determined that a home has high levels of radon, there are several effective methods to reduce the radon level. The most common is installing a vent pipe system and fan which pulls the radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.

You can find more background information about Bill 31-15, here.

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