Madison County Health Department news

January is cervical health and radon awareness month

What every homeowner needs to know about radon

January is National Radon Action Month and the Madison County Health Department would like you to resolve this New Year to take action and know the radon level in your home.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by decaying uranium that you cannot see or smell. Breathing in high levels of radon gas can cause lung cancer over time. Radon gas is present in nearly all soils, and very low levels of radon are found in the air we breathe every day. Madison County is a known high-risk area for radon. Testing is the only way to know if radon gas is impacting your home air quality.

Radon becomes a problem and health threat to you and your family when radon gas enters your home and becomes trapped. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., after smoking. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that lung cancer caused by radon exposure kills about 21,000 Americans every year.

1. How does radon enter your house?
Radon gas moves from the soil into a home. Any house, of any age, in any state can have elevated radon levels.  Radon can leak through cracks in your basement or slab, through the dirt floor of your crawl space, or through openings around your sump pump. It really depends on the way your specific house interacts with the surrounding soil. Your neighbor’s radon level may different from yours. Testing is the ONLY way to know if your house has high radon levels.

2. How do you test your home for radon?
Short and long-term tests are available. Testing is recommended in the lowest livable area of your home that is regularly used. Radon tests are divided into short-term tests (less than 90 days, typically 2 to 7 days) and long-term tests, from 3 to 12 months.

The most commonly used device for making short-term radon measurements in homes is the charcoal canister. Take the average of two charcoal canister measurements to guide a decision to mitigate.

Another type of test is the continuous electronic radon monitor. These devices generally produce more precise radon measurements, however they are more expensive and should only be used by certified professional radon testing firms. Continuous radon monitors are often used during real estate transactions, because they are more tamper resistant than charcoal canisters.

3. What should you do if your house has high levels of radon?
If an initial short-term test registers 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher, the EPA recommends doing a second radon test. A long-term test will give you the most accurate information, but if a second short-term test registers above 4 pCi/L, consider taking steps to reduce radon levels in your home.

4. You can fix a radon problem with a mitigation system

A radon mitigation system vents your home by using PVC piping to draw radon gas up from the soil and out of your house. A list of certified radon mitigation contractors is available on the NYS Department of Health website at https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/radiological/radon/mitigation/county_map.htm 

Screen your home for radon. FREE radon test kits are available to eligible homeowners from Madison County Health Department, while supplies last. To learn more, including how to get a free or low-cost radon detector, contact Madison County Health Department at 366-2526 or visit www.healthymadisoncounty.org.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. The most important thing a woman can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 21. Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening tests and appropriate follow-up care. It also can be cured when found early and treated. The Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. The Pap test detects cell changes on the cervix that might become cancerous if not treated properly.

Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), making infection by HPV the most important risk factor for cervical cancer. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States. An estimated 79 million Americans are currently infected. 

The good news is, vaccines are available to protect against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is given in a series of two shots when started before the age of 15. When started after age 15, HPV vaccine is given in a series of three shots. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls ages 11 to 12. Because the HPV vaccine can also protect against certain types of cancers in males, the CDC recommends that boys also get the HPV vaccine at age 11 to 12. If they are not vaccinated by this age, then catch-up vaccination begins at 13 years of age for both girls and boys. Vaccination can begin as early as age 9.

Additionally, because research has shown that children ages 11 and 12 respond better to immunization and produce higher levels of antibodies that fight HPV infection compared to older children, the child’s annual visit for sixth grade when they receive their meningococcal vaccine and Tdap vaccine is the opportune time to start the two-dose HPV vaccine series. However, teens and young adults can still benefit from the HPV vaccine, which may be given until age 26.

What can you do? Talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, whether for yourself if you are 26 years old or younger, or for your child who is 9 years or older. Be sure to complete the multi-dose series once started. The HPV vaccine is also available at Madison County Health Department Immunization clinics.

Visit healthymadisoncounty.org for the clinic schedule or call 315-366-2848 to make an appointment.

The second thing you can do is to get screened for cervical cancer. Routine screening for women aged 21 to 65 years old can prevent cervical cancer. If you are uninsured or underinsured, the Cancer Services Program that covers Madison County, which is operated by Bassett Healthcare, may be able to help provide important preventive cancer screenings at no cost to the patient. The Cancer Services Program is funded by a grant from the New York State Department of Health, and offers routine cervical cancer (and breast cancer) screenings to uninsured women ages 40 to 64. Call 1-888-345-0225 to find out if you are eligible.

Additional information about programs that promote early detection and treatment of cervical cancer is available at cdc.gov/cancer. For more information on the Madison County Health Department’s programs and services, visit healthymadisoncounty.org.

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