The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has officially designated January 2012 to be National Radon Action Month.
Radon is a naturally-occurring, radioactive gas that seeps out of the ground and can enter homes and other buildings. Since radon is invisible and odorless, the only way to know if a home has dangerous levels of the gas is to conduct a radon test. Radon problems have been found in every county in the United States so the Surgeon General is recommending that all homes be tested.
Radon causes more deaths each year in the United States than any other in-home hazard including fires and carbon monoxide deaths combined, according to the EPA.
The EPA estimates that as many as eight million homes in the United States currently have dangerous levels of radon gas. They also predict that if action is not taken to correct this problem, between 15,000 and 22,000 deaths will occur in 2012 from exposure to the gas.
Further, EPA estimates that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Since radon does not have an odor and is invisible, people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer within the walls of their home, according to health officials.
“I would want people to understand that this is not something to panic about,” said Mike Lunsford , Radon Specialist at the Division of Health Service Regulation - Radiation Protection Section. “It’s perfectly natural, it comes out of the ground. It’s not a pollutant we can blame on anybody except Mother Nature. There is no physical way to detect it, and radon doesn’t have any short-term affects.”
The NC Radon Program urges residents to take action this month by testing their homes for radon.
By visiting ncradon.org, you can learn more about how to obtain a do-it-yourself test kit, which Lunsford said is easy to use. After learning how much radon is in your home, you may need to “channel the soil gas outside, as opposed to into your home,” said Lunsford.
There is a potential for some homes in this county to have elevated levels of radon, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Houses in the same neighborhood can have very different levels, so every home should be tested.
Testing homes for radon is simple and inexpensive. Radon test kits can be purchased at local hardware and home improvement stores, directly from radon testing companies, or are available for free during January from the NC Radon Program. Should your home be found to have elevated levels of radon, the problem can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of many other home repairs. Estimated costs run from about $1,000 to $2,500 depending on the home.
For more information on radon and to receive your free radon test kit, visit the NC Radon Program’s website at www.ncradon.org.
For more information, visit www.epa.gov/radon/nram/.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.