Recognizing Radon Dangers

Don Mellring's home in southwest Topeka doesn't look unusual, but it was harboring a killer.

Don decided to test his home for radon after his neighbor told him he'd had a high level in his.

"The results came back 5.9 pci/liter," Don said. Officials say anything above 4.0 is cause for concern.

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., behind only smoking. Short-term, you won't notice any symptoms. But officials expect to see 22,000 radon-related deaths this year, 200 of those in Kansas.

"Radon is a radioactive soil gas," says Cindy Evans with the Shawnee County Extension Agency. "It comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil."

Evans said radon seeps into our homes through cracks and openings. Whether your home is old or new doesn't matter - an estimated one in four Kansas homes will test high.

"You can't see it. You can't smell it. You can't taste it," Evans said. "The only way to know is to test."

The test is simple. Simply prop open a special pouch with a packet of activated charcoal. Set it at breathing height in the lowest livable level of your house for four to seven days. Then seal it up and send it to the lab. Results are available within days.

Evans said winter is a good time of year to test your home.

"Heaters and air conditioners - those are sucking air from the soil and along with it, will draw in the soil gasses as well," she said.

That same theory is how home's with high radon levels can get it out with a special venting system.

"We're trying to beat it to the punch," Evans said. "We're sucking the gas out of the soil and venting it out of the home before it gets in the home environment."

Don installed his system in November and believes it's working.

"After it was in, I ran it two to three weeks, ran the test again and this time it was 0.3," Don said.

It wasn't cheap. Don did it himself for around $600. Professionals charge $1,200 to $1,500. But Don says it's money well spent.

"It depends on your health," he said. "You want to protect your health so it's worth the investment."

You can get a radon testing kit from the Shawnee County Extension office, 1740 SW Western. (Just north of the livestock arena at the Expocentre.) The office is open from 8 am to 5 pm. Their phone number is (785) 232-0062.

Cost for Shawnee County residents is just one dollar. If you live outside the county, it's five dollars, plus postage or contact your local extension agency.

Evans said 56-percent of tests in Shawnee County last year were high. She also said Riley County is now requiring all new buildings be radon resistant.

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Radon Facts

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas.
You can't see, smell or taste radon. But it may be a problem in your home. Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That's because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Radon can be found all over the U.S.

Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon can be found all over the U.S. It can get into any type of building -- homes, offices, and schools - and build up to high levels. But you are most likely to get your greatest exposure at home. That's where you spend most of your time.

You should test for radon.

Testing is the only way to know if you are at risk from radon. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. Testing is inexpensive and easy -- it should only take a few minutes of your time. Millions of Americans have already tested their homes for radon.

You can fix a radon problem.

There are simple ways to fix a radon problem that aren't too costly. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels. If you have further questions about Radon, please call your State Radon Contact or the National Radon Information Line at: 1-800-SOS-RADON. If you have already tested your home, you can call The Radon FIX-IT Program at 1-800-644-6999.

Source: < http://www.epa.gov/iaq/radon/> United States Environmental Protection Agency


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