Friday, November 28, 2014

MCFARLAND: It’s odorless, colorless and natural, but deadly

By REBECCA MCFARLAND, Reaching Out | 1/8/2014

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

It contributes to about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year across the country. Radon is a radioactive gas produced from the decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. Radon gas moves from the ground under and around houses, through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. The only way to know the radon level in your home is to test. Radon testing results in Kansas show there is a need for more testing. Present indicators are that one in four houses in Kansas might have elevated levels.

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

It contributes to about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year across the country. Radon is a radioactive gas produced from the decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. Radon gas moves from the ground under and around houses, through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. The only way to know the radon level in your home is to test. Radon testing results in Kansas show there is a need for more testing. Present indicators are that one in four houses in Kansas might have elevated levels.

January is Kansas Radon Action Month, sponsored by the Kansas Radon Program, housed at Kansas State University, the College of Engineering’s Extension Programs Department and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The Environmental Protection Agency also sponsors National Radon Action Month.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognize that indoor radon constitutes a substantial health risk. They advise that all homes be tested.  

The Kansas Radon Program’s database of radon tests conducted in Kansas now has greater than 50,000 measurements. The average observed residential radon test is currently 4.8 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or in excess of the EPA’s action level of 4.0 pCi/L. The average radon level in Franklin County is 3.7pCi/L, but one-fourth of all of the homes tested, measured 4 pCi/L or greater.  

A do-it-yourself test kit is an economical, easy to use, reliable and readily available option. Both offices of the Frontier Extension District sell the kits for $5.50 each. Testing your home for radon will not disrupt your daily routine. However, for the 12 hours before and throughout the short-term test, keep doors and windows closed as much as possible. Testing the basement and first and second floors at the same time can help you relate radon levels to where you spend the most time. Avoid testing in kitchens, baths, drafts, heat and high humidity. Living rooms or bedrooms are good spots, especially if they are in basements. Do not test in crawl spaces, sumps or on the floor.

After exposure, the detector should be sealed (in the enclosed envelope) and immediately returned to the laboratory for analysis to determine the radon level to which the device was exposed. Results should be provided to you within 30 days.  

Because no level of radon is considered safe, radon levels in a home should be reduced as much as reasonably possible. Action should be taken to reduce radon levels in a home if the average annual level is higher than 4 pCi/L.  

Reduce radon levels in homes by preventing radon entry, increasing ventilation and removing radon and its decay products from the air.

For questions or more information about radon, call our Ottawa office at (785) 229-3520, the Lyndon office at (785) 828-4438 or the Kansas Radon Program at (800) 693-5343.

Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu

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