Featured below are several recent “Hot Topics” that are
of particular interest to Buyers, Sellers, and Real Estate
Professionals. We have provided a brief explanation of these issues and
why they are considered to be “Hot Topics”. It is my goal to ensure
that readers are educated and that a purchaser is able to make an
“informed decision.” This reduces the liability of Agents, Brokers and
Sellers. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at
anytime. I am available to help in the mitigation process.
Ralph Kephart, President
What every Californian needs to know about Radon
WHAT IS RADON?
is a relatively new issue in California. Although you can't see, smell
or taste it, there may still be a radon problem in your home. Radon
comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water.
While this process is natural, the effects of radon are very dangerous,
and very few people are aware that radon ranks as the second leading
cause of lung cancer in the United States – second only to smoking
Levels of radon in an outdoor environment are
usually quite low, and not much of a health risk to humans. Indoors,
however, radon levels can be very high. Radon can enter homes and
buildings through cracks in floors, walls or foundations, quickly
leading to dangerous levels in confined spaces. Testing is the only way
to know if your home has elevated radon levels. Testing is inexpensive
and easy, whether you hire a professional or purchase a test kit
(available at most hardware stores for around $13). If high levels are
detected, radon reduction systems can bring the amount of radon down to
a safe level at an inexpensive cost relative to the size and design of
RADON IN CALIFORNIA
in 2003, local newspaper headlines in Palos Verdes read, “High School
Science Project Leads to Federal Radon Study in California”. What
began as 15-year-old Lauren Fukumoto’s high school science project soon
expanded to a USGS study of the geologic causes of indoor radon in her
south of Los Angeles school district. Awareness of California’s radon
problems quickly spread throughout the country. From the CGS website,
the story relates that geologist Ron Churchill was dispatched to Palos
Verdes to discuss the radon issue with the school district and to
observe and provide assistance to a special USGS study. He met
geophysicist Joe Duval, USGS' top radon expert, and the mapping began.
Since that time, Mr. Churchill has produced a number of maps, including
the Lake Tahoe Area, Eldorado County, Placer and San Luis Obispo
County, Santa Cruz, Monterey County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara
County and Los Angeles County.
A few years ago I called Mr.
Churchill and spoke to him about the radon data, as we had started
using the maps in our disclosure reports. He explained his concerns
about the accuracy of the radon potential maps and suggested comparing
them with the actual test results from “zip code data”. There were too
few test results to really draw hard conclusions, so I included both
sets of data at that time, in order to obtain the best picture
possible. Since then, we have started using the zip code data alone, as
there is now enough test result data to get a more reliable picture -
but it is still by no means complete. With all the ongoing testing, the
data will become more accurate over time.
In addition, we have
reviewed the CGS data with the test results collected by Air Chek Inc.
(radon.com), which offers a variety of test kits and has a wealth of
information on radon in California and throughout the country.
The map shown to the left is the EPA's predicted average
indoor screening by county and zone. On the right is the Lawrence
Livermore map of predicted MEDIAN annual average living area
concentration of radon.
WHAT ARE THE MAPS TELLING US?
the maps showing that California’s radon problem is limited to just a
few counties? I don't think so! California’s radon problem is
widespread and serious.
The Berkley map contains the following
disclaimer: "Colors may be hard to distinguish, particularly among the
greens.” But this map, isn't intended to give really detailed
predictions anyway. Remember, these are predictions. There is some
uncertainty in each county's actual median! Note; only three counties
are green (2 or 2.5 pCI/L or above). Having taught statistics I know it
can be confusing for the unfamiliar, if not misleading, so I am going
to use simple odds. - see below.
The EPA Map (left) has a
different disclaimer: "The purpose of this map is to assist national,
state, and local organizations to target their resources and to
implement radon-resistant building codes. This map is not intended to
be used to determine if a home in a given zone should be tested for
radon. Homes with elevated levels of radon have been found in all three
zones. In my opinion, all homes should be tested regardless of
Map by Zip Code and County: These maps will
give a different perspective. Based on actual tests, the colors change
and the odds are clearer. However, these maps are still not complete,
and there is still not enough hard and specific data at the address
maps show that California has a widespread and serious radon problem.
With the data gathered, we have narrowed the location to where the odds
are highest. Still, with insufficient data in most areas of the state,
my response will continue to be, “Let’s test and find out!”
you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it, radon is a serious health risk
to Californians. As the second leading cause of lung cancer in the
United States, radon is not something to be taken lightly. Fortunately,
testing for and eliminating radon is simple, easy, and relatively
inexpensive. Of all the natural hazards affecting California homes,
radon is the easiest and cheapest to eliminate. With the dangers great,
and elimination easy, there are simply no excuses for allowing the
dangers of radon in any home.
GeoAssurance now provides the advisory below in our Natural Hazard disclosure
reports. Pipe Line Safety Utility officials, responding to a clamor for more
information after the San Bruno gas pipeline disaster that killed 5 people, have
released their 2009 internal list of the 100 most risky pipe segments, in an
effort to rebuild public trust about the safety of its natural gas system. Maps
are available on line from PG&E which show top Planning Segments at:
In addition, National Pipeline Mapping System from the U.S. Department of
Transportation is available to the public. The on-line Viewer allows the general
public to see maps of transmission pipelines, LNG plants, and breakout tanks in
one selected county. Some segments on the list are as short as two feet, while
others are more than a mile. Users are permitted to print maps of the data, but
the data is not downloadable.