(Wampsville, NY – Jan. 2013) January has been declared National Radon Action Month by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Madison County Health Department. This time is set aside to urge Madison County residents to have their homes tested for radon; a colorless and odorless gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the U.S. Wintertime is the best time to test, fix, save a life.
Radon is a radioactive gas that results from the decay of uranium in the soil. It enters homes through cracks in basements and foundations. The New York State Department of Health estimates as many as one in four Madison County homes has radon levels greater than the EPA guidelines of 4 pico curies per liter.
Information on township radon levels in our county can be found at healthymadisoncounty.org under the Health Information section.
“Radon causes more cases of lung cancer in America than anything else except cigarette smoking,” Public Health Director Eric Faisst states. “The good news is that we can reduce our exposure to this harmful gas. The only way to know whether the level of radon in homes is higher than recommended by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to test for it. Even though it’s easy and inexpensive to test for radon gas, many people simply are not aware that they should be testing their homes.”
Homeowners themselves can do radon tests, and test kits are available at most home improvement and hardware stores. The testing procedure takes only a few days and the kits themselves cost only $8.50 when ordered through the NYS Department of Health. Homeowners sometimes hire a professional to perform electronic radon tests when results are needed in as little as three to four days.
When hiring a professional, be sure to use a testing professional certified by state and/or federal agencies.
Radon tests should be done at basement level, if possible, where the highest concentration of the gas would be present. If a basement reading is not practical for any reason, then testing should proceed on the lowest home level on which people live, and during the winter months, when windows and doors are closed.
If radon levels exceed the recommended level, follow-up action may be needed. Radon gas can be vented to the outside of a home by several means. Homeowners can install radon mitigation systems themselves, but this is a more extensive process, and many homeowners may want to have such a system installed by a certified radon-mitigation contractor registered with National Environmental Health Association or New York State. Homes can be built with radon resistant construction techniques that add only three to five hundred dollars to the total cost of the home.
“Finding and fixing a radon problem is relatively easy,” Faisst said. “Raising awareness about radon and encouraging families to test their houses can literally save lives. Don’t put off testing. The point is… the longer you wait, the longer you and your family are exposed to radon.”
Applications for the low-cost radon test kits from New York State are available via the Madison County Health Department website at www.healthymadisoncounty.org under Health Information. Allow 6 to 8 weeks for processing and delivery (perhaps longer depending on demand). Friendly staff is available to answer your questions about radon. Call today at 366-2361.
Virginia Zombek is a public health educator at the Madison County Health Department.