Lesson 11
How can you talk to
clients about
radon risk?
Radon: unlike other
environmental risks
• Natural, not made
by human activity
Procrastinate?
– No villain to blame
• Not readily
controlled by
regulation
– Solution depends
on individual action
– Decisions should be
based on good
information
Test?
Mitigate?
Ignore?
Slide 11-1
Barriers to
communication
• Misconceptions about
radon
• Apathy (lack of interest)
• Fear
To deal with clients’ misconceptions, I
provide accurate information about
radon.
To deal with apathy, I explain the risk of
radon to a family’s health.
To deal with fear, I address concerns
about testing and mitigation.
Inspector
Hank Slide
James
11-2
Common
misconceptions
• Radon risk is small
• Radon is not a
problem in my area
• Radon risk can be
determined by
geography or home
construction, not
testing
• Radon testing is
difficult and expensive
• Radon mitigation is
difficult and expensive
• Radon gas is lighter
than air and will rise
to top of home
– Greatest concentration
in upper floors
• High radon levels
require removing
“contaminated”
furnishings
• Other?
Slide 11-3
Why are
people apathetic?
• No sensory clues show
that radon is present
– Radon has no taste,
smell, or color
• Delay of many years
before cancer
develops
– No immediate victims
seen
– Delay persuades people
that radon is not a
health problem
Radon?
• Attitudes toward
health risks
– Skepticism: risk is not
real
– Fatalism: risk cannot be
avoided
Slide 11-4
Why are
people apathetic?
• Competition
with other
concerns in
the “worry
budget”
Today’s worry schedule
9-10 AM
War
10-11
Global warming
11-12 noon Gas prices
12-1 PM
1-2
Bird flu pandemic
Mad cow disease
2-3
3-4
4:01-4:02
Obesity
Terrorism
Radon
4:02-5:00
Political corruption
Slide 11-5
Radon in a
worry budget
• Where is radon in your
worry budget?
• Has its position
changed since you
began today’s
training?
• What could you say to
a client who says,
“I’ve got more
important things than
radon to worry
about”?
If testing shows that your
radon level is under 4 pCi/L,
you might be able to cross
radon off your worry budget
without taking further action
at this time.
If testing shows that your
radon level is 4 pCi/L or
more, you might be able to
cross radon off your worry
budget by mitigating.
Slide 11-6
Radon communication
challenges
• Alert the apathetic
– “If people don’t
get their houses
checked, they
should get their
heads checked”—
Robert Nulman
• Reassure the alarmed
– Panic is not
necessary, even with
high radon levels
Mitigation usually does not
require extreme measures
Slide 11-7
EPA
mitigation guidelines
If radon level is
equal to or greater than
4 pCi/L
Mitigate
within
A few years
20 pCi/L
A few months
200 pCi/L
A few weeks
Slide 11-8
Fears about radon
• Distrust of contractors
– Performing unnecessary
repairs
– Overcharging
– Performing ineffective
mitigation
• Loss of home value
– Difficulty selling home
– Lower sale price
– Longer time to closing
I know that there are reputable
mitigation contractors.
In my experience, homes
generally do not lose value as a
result of radon testing.
And they’re usually not more
difficult to sell. In fact, some
people are interested in buying
a home that already has an
effective mitigation system in
place.
Slide 11-9
Acting on radon risk
There’s no doubt that
radon causes lung and
stomach cancer.
But you can install a
mitigation system, at a
reasonable cost, that will
reduce your risk.
People are more
likely to act when
they believe
– The risk is a
serious threat
and
– Reasonable ways
to reduce the
risk are within
their reach
Slide 11-10
Factors that help people
act on radon risk
• Concern for family
health, especially
children’s health
– Special concern
with avoiding
radiation
– Cause of lung
cancer, a dreaded
disease
• Radon carries no
benefits at all, so
it is easy to give
up
• Home inspector is trusted,
credible source of
information
– Personal influence can
encourage clients to mitigate
if necessary
• People often most open to
radon information when
buying a home
– Buyers and sellers focused
on condition of home
• Testing and mitigation
relatively easy and
inexpensive
Slide 11-11
Goals of communication
about radon
• Inform client about radon risk
• If necessary, persuade client to test
for radon
• Inform client of results
• Explain what results mean
• Inform client of mitigation options
• If necessary, provide resources about
mitigation
Slide 11-12
Communication tips
• Ask questions to find
out what people know,
think, or want to do
– Don’t assume you know
before you have asked
• Explain seriousness of
health risk
– Experts agree on risk
and solutions
– Put risk in perspective
• Address concerns
besides health
• Use plain language
– Don’t use highly
technical terms for
most clients
– Give as much
information as the client
wants and needs
• Personalize the
information
– Describe personal
stories about people
who have mitigated
successfully
– Costs
– Property values
Slide 11-13
Personal story
In 1986, in Clinton, NJ, scientists found a cluster of
homes with extremely high levels of radon.
Clinton’s mayor, Robert Nulman, has openly
described his personal experience with radon.
When he bought his own home, the radon level
was 130 pCi/L of air.
For $900, the seller had a contractor install a
mitigation system in the basement.
The radon level dropped to below 2 pCi/L.
Radon did not reduce the value of his house or
otherwise affect the sale of the house.
Slide 11-14
Points to emphasize
about testing
• Testing costs are small
• Testing does not usually affect
– Number of offers and counteroffers in
home sale
– Time to close home sale
– Final negotiated price
• Test results may provide reassurance
that radon is not a problem
– Take radon off the worry schedule
Slide 11-15
Points to emphasize
about mitigation
• Radon is a fixable problem
• Mitigation, if needed,
preserves home value
• Mitigation costs are
moderate in comparison
with
– Other home repairs (such as
roofing, plumbing, or
electrical repairs)
– Renovations (such as
painting, carpeting, appliance
upgrades, or additions)
Mitigation
costs average
$900-$2500
Slide 11-16
Points to emphasize
about mitigation
If mitigation is necessary
Difficulty
Low
Cost
Moderate in comparison
with many other common
home projects
Protecting
the family’s
health
Priceless
LowRadon
Slide 11-17
EPA document
For general testing
Slide 11-18
EPA document
For real estate transactions
Slide 11-19
EPA document
For mitigation
Slide 11-20
Check languages
Check EPA website for publications in
Spanish
www.epa.gov/iaq/radon/pubs
Slide 11-21
Summary
• Barriers to
communication
– Misconceptions
– Apathy
– Fear
• To overcome
barriers
– Provide accurate
information
– Alert the apathetic
– Reassure the
alarmed
People are most likely to act when they believe that
• The risk is serious
• Reasonable ways to reduce risk are within their
reach
Slide 11-22
Summary
Factors that encourage action
– Concern for health
– No benefits to radon
– Inspector is credible source of
information
– Open to information when buying a
home
– Action is relatively easy and inexpensive
Slide 11-23
Summary
Communication tips
– Ask questions to learn what people
know, think, or want to do
– Explain seriousness of risk
– Address concerns about cost and
property values
– Use plain language
– Personalize the information
Slide 11-24
Summary
Points to emphasize
Testing
– Testing costs are
small
– Testing does not
usually affect home
sale
– Test results may
reassure that radon
is not a problem
Mitigation
– Mitigation preserves
a home’s value
– Mitigation costs are
moderate
– Mitigation protects
a family’s health
Slide 11-25
Summary
EPA documents
For general
testing
Citizen's Guide to Radon:
The Guide to Protecting
Yourself and Your Family
from Radon
For real
Home Buyer's and Seller's
estate testing Guide to Radon
For any client Consumer’s Guide to Radon
with reading Reduction: How To Fix Your
4 pCi/L or
Home
more
Slide 11-26
Questions?
Slide 11-27
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Lesson 11 - University of Connecticut