By TRAVIS HANDY
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has teamed with health agencies around the country to raise awareness of radon, the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control, and National Cancer Institute all agree that radon is a national health problem and encourage radon testing during the a national awareness drive, Oct. 20-26.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas–a byproduct of the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks and water. It is considered to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the country, behind smoking. There are simple measures homeowners can take to test the air in their homes, fix existing radon problems and potentially save lives.
A number of factors contribute to hight home radon levels , including the kind of rock in the area, how close he rock is to the surface, what is between the rock and the foundation of your home, and how permeable the foundation is. Other factors include the size of the home and the way it is used, as well as the HVAC system.
Radon is not isolated to certain geographical areas or home types. In fact, radon problems have been detected in homes in every county of the U.S. According to the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Division of Radiological Health, most of the counties in our area, including Pulaski County, are considered “high risk” areas. The same is true of most Virginia counties west of I-95.
Radon can enter the home in a number of different ways, including pores or cracks in the foundation, cracks between the foundation and walls, unsealed areas around pipes and from drains. Radon can also be found in ground water. If you have a well utilizing ground water, radon could be present in the ground water and becomes dangerous when agitated at certain times, like while taking a shower.
VDH and EPA encourage everybody–especially in moderate to high risk areas–to test, as it is the only way to know if your particular house has a problem. If radon levels are too high in your home, an abatement system should be installed.
VDH sources indicate fall is an ideal time to test because outdoor temperatures are around the yearly average for the region, and say it is best to perform two tests before making a decision to install an abatement system. If an abatement system is installed, the home should be tested again within 48 hours to see if the problem has been corrected. Testing is also suggested after making improvements or additions to a home.
Test kits are available as low as $15-20 from most home improvement stores. The test period is 48 hours , and the kits come with instructions for handling the testing materials and sending them to a lab for evaluation. The testing is time-sensitive and materials should be sent to a lab not too far away from where the test was conducted, to ensure better accuracy of results.
A recommended source for test kits and results is Air Check, located in North Carolina. The laboratory is closer to Southwest Virginia, which would mean less of a delay in mailing and processing.
People can get test kits from Air Check through their website, www.radon.com. People can contact VDH and receive a half-price coupon for Air Check test kits. To receive coupons, call the VDH Division of Radiological Health at (804) 864-8150.
Learn more about the Federal Radon Action Plan at www.RadonPlan.org. For more information about radon, visit epa.gov/radon.