EPA: Now Is the Time to Test for Radon

January is “Radon Action Month,” so designated by the Environmental Protection Agency because now, when doors and windows in most parts of the nation are tightly closed, is the best time to test for the radioactive gas. The agency adds, however, that even though the radon test is easy and inexpensive to perform, 80 percent of homes in the United States have not had it done.

Meanwhile, the gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, causing 20,000 deaths nationwide every year, the agency says. It adds that only cigarette smoking accounts for more lung cancer deaths.

EPA notes that high radon levels have been found throughout the agency's mid-Atlantic region, which includes Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The only way homeowners can know if they and their families are at risk from radon is to test their home for the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. This is a test homeowners can perform themselves or have done by a certified professional radon tester. For do-it-yourselfers, radon kits can be purchased for $25 at building supply, hardware, and general merchandise stores. A basic test takes 10 minutes to set up and when complete is mailed to a lab for analysis.

If test results are above the EPA recommended action level, the agency urges homeowners to have the radon level reduced by a certified radon ‘mitigator.’ Reducing radon is not technically difficult and costs approximately $800 - $2,500.

To locate professional radon testers and certified radon ‘mitigators’ near you, look on the Web at either the “National Environmental Health Association” or “National Radon Safety Board” sites. EPA’s advice is to always be sure to ask to see the mitigator’s credentials.

Radon is a radioactive gas produced from the uranium that is in the geological formation under the soil. The amount or radon gas varies depending on the amount of uranium in the formation. The type of soil under the house, the design of the house, and the lifestyle of the family living in the house all affect the amount of radon gas that enters a home, EPA says.

The following is a list of sources for more information on radon:

  • EPA’s National Radon Hotline, 1-800-438-2474.
  • EPA’s Radon Web site, www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html.
  • The National Environmental Publications Center, 1-800-490-9198 or www.epa.gov/cinc. The center offers a “Citizens Guide to Radon” and a “Home Buyers and Sellers Guide.”

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