January a good time to test for radonThe second leading cause of lung cancer is an odorless, invisible and radioactive gas that can seep into homes through the soil and kills 21,000 Americans each year — radon.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
The second leading cause of lung cancer is an odorless, invisible and radioactive gas that can seep into homes through the soil and kills 21,000 Americans each year — radon.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated January as National Radon Action Month, during which people should test their homes for radon and learn about the substance.
“Sixty-three percent of homes in North Dakota test over the action level (for radon),” said Marcie Bota, environmental health practitioner for Central Valley Health District. “… this can happen in any home.”
The “action level” — the point at which corrective action should be taken — for radon is 4 pico-Curies per liter, and every single county in North Dakota has a high potential for elevated levels of radon, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
Even new homes can have radon, which is formed when naturally-occurring uranium in the soil breaks down. The gas emits radioactive decay products that can be breathed in, then causing cancer.
Generally, radon comes from the soil, and can enter a home through cracks, holes or pores in concrete, exposed soil, uncapped hollow brick foundations, mortar joints and even some stone building materials and wells.
Because it is invisible and odorless, the only way to find out whether radon is present in a home is to test for it. Because homes are more enclosed in the winter months, that is when radon testing is most accurate, Bota said.
Free radon tests are available at Central Valley Health District. They are essentially trays of activated charcoal, which should be left out away from windows, the floor and other objects in a closed room in a lower level where they won’t be disturbed for two days.
The test kits given at Central Valley are then sent to Alpha Energy Laboratories in Texas, and results are returned in two to three weeks.
If a home tests positive for radon, it is recommended that a second test be done, Bota said, and if it’s still that high, the North Dakota Department of Health should be contacted.
Even if radon is present in a home, it isn’t the end of the world, Bota emphasized, adding, “There’s things that can be done.”
Home repairs can cost $800 to $2,500, but they are generally successful, according to the EPA, and can even reduce levels by up to 99 percent.
First, the house will be inspected, and diagnostic tests may be done to determine how air flows within the home, the EPA said. Then a contractor can either prevent radon from entering a home or reduce levels after it has entered the building, depending on the home and the methods of reduction chosen.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at email@example.com