Real Estate Agents in North Carolina Help Reduce Lung Cancer Through Radon Testing

A real estate agent standing in front of a house with a For Sale sign in the yard, talking with a couple who could be the homeowners, or potential buyers.

A new continuing education course for real estate agents explains how radon can enter a home and cause lung cancer and how homes can be tested for radon. Through this course, real estate agents learn how to inform home buyers about the benefits of testing for radon.

Cigarette smoke is the main cause of lung cancer. But other things can cause this disease. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that forms in rocks, soil, and water. It cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. When radon gets into homes or buildings through cracks or holes, it can get trapped and build up in the air inside. People who live or work in these homes and buildings breathe in high radon levels. Over long periods of time, radon can cause lung cancer.

The only way to know if you have unsafe levels of radon in your home or office is by testing. About 400 people in North Carolina die each year from lung cancer caused by radon.

Comprehensive cancer control programs bring organizations together to lower the number of people who get cancer. The North Carolina Comprehensive Cancer Control Programexternal icon worked with the North Carolina Radon Programexternal icon to educate people about radon, so fewer people in the state would get lung cancer.

“Most North Carolina residents think that radon only affects our mountain region, but it is a statewide issue,” said Sarah Arthur, program coordinator for the North Carolina Comprehensive Cancer Control Program.

The programs developed the fact sheet “Safe at Home: Preventing Lung Cancer by Reducing Radon in the Home” pdf icon[PDF-492KB]external icon and other materials. But they wanted to do more.

Teaching Real Estate Agents About Radon

Most people hire a real estate agent or broker when they buy or sell a house. These professionals can explain why it’s important to test homes for radon. So the comprehensive cancer control program and the radon program worked together to develop a new continuing education course for real estate agents.

“To encourage more people to get their home tested for radon, we felt the best first step was at the point of sale,” Ms. Arthur said.

The Radon in Real Estate course teaches real estate agents how radon can enter a home and how homes can be tested for radon. The course also explains that radon can cause lung cancer. Students learn how to help home buyers and sellers hire a radon professional to fix their home if the radon level is high.

The Radon in Real Estate course was first offered in 2021, and 387 real estate agents have taken it. To find out if the course was helpful, students were asked to test their knowledge about radon before and after the course. The average score increased from 67% to 88%.

Now, staff from the North Carolina Radon Program teach the course in person. In the future, the program hopes to develop an interactive course that students can take online. The comprehensive cancer control and radon programs hope this course will increase the number of homes in North Carolina that have been tested for radon and fixed.

Sharing Radon Education Nationwide

The North Carolina programs want to help programs in other states teach real estate agents about radon. They plan to develop a Radon in Real Estate continuing education course toolkit. The toolkit will include step-by-step guidance for developing a course, resources, and suggested partnerships. Through training courses like the one in North Carolina, real estate agents nationwide may get access to expert information about radon and learn how to inform home buyers about the benefits of testing for radon.

Page last reviewed: January 4, 2022