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January is National Radon Action Month

By Toi N. Degree

Rowan Cooperative Extension

SALISBURY — January is the time to Test, Fix, and Save a Life … its National Radon Action Month! Radon is a gaseous radioactive element that is an extremely toxic, odorless, colorless gas.

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.

Now, that I have your attention, let me inform you a bit and encourage you to continue reading to learn more about radon, where it can be found, why it is important to test your home, where you can find a test, and how you can fix a radon problem.

Winter is the best time to test for radon, because all the windows are closed and if it is present, it will be easier to detect. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that all homes be tested for radon gas.

Q: How does radon get into my home?

A: Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water.

Q: What level of radon is too high?

A: The (EPA) already has a wealth of scientific data on the relationship between radon exposure and the development of lung cancer. Health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Surgeon General, the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, and others agree that we know enough now to recommend radon testing and to encourage public action when levels are above 4 pCi/L.

Q: How is radon measured?

A: Radon test results may be reported in three different measures – picocuries (pCi/l), Working Levels (WL) and bequerels (bq). If your test result is in pCi/L, EPA recommends you fix your home if the radon level is 4 pCi/L or higher. If the test result is in WL, EPA recommends you fix your home if the working level is 0.016 WL or higher. Some states require WL results to be converted to pCi/L to minimize confusion. While not commonly used in the United States, any radon level at or above 0.148 bq should be reduced.

Q: How often should I test/retest my home for radon?

A: According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) general guidelines found in “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon,” https://www.epa.gov/radon/citizens-guide-radon-guide-protecting-yourself-and-your-family-radon it suggests:

  • If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should retest your home on that level.  Even if your test result is below 4 pCi/L, you may want to test again sometime in the future.
  • If you are buying or selling a home (from “Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon” –https://www.epa.gov/radon/home-buyers-and-sellers-guide-radon
  • If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your home for radon, review the Radon Testing Checklist  to make sure that the test was done correctly.  If so, provide your test results to the buyer.

No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask that a new test be taken especially if:

  • The Radon Testing Checklist items were not met;
  • The last test is not recent, e.g., within two years;
  • You have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or
  • The buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.

A buyer may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.

A simple test will tell you if your home has a high radon level. Most radon tests last between 3 and 7 days. It’s as easy as opening a package and putting the test kit in the right place. After sending the test kit back to the address on the package, the company will send your radon test results in about 2 weeks.

Many local home improvement or hardware stores sell the test kits. Test kits can be ordered online, too. You can even pick up kits at Rowan County Cooperative Extension. We are partnering with NC Radon to provide free short-term radon test kits in recognition of National Radon Action Month.

A limited supply of radon test kits are being made available locally every Tuesday in January, beginning Jan. 3, 2017, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 2727 Old Concord Road, Salisbury.

For more information, visit: www.ncradon.org or https://www.epa.gov/radon

Toi N. Degree, Family & Consumer Education Agent at the Rowan County Cooperative Extension 704-216-8970 or toi_degree@ncsu.edu

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