January is National Radon Action Month. Residents are encouraged to take a stand to protect their families by testing their homes for an odorless, colorless, tasteless pollutant that can cause lung cancer. That pollutant, radon gas, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the first leading cause of lung cancer in individuals who have never smoked. EPA estimates 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year are radon-related.
Radon is a natural, tasteless, odorless, colorless, radioactive gas produced from the decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. Radon gas moves from the ground under and around your home 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 one in four houses in Kansas may have elevated levels. In some counties this rate may be higher.
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Given the increased potential for lung cancer the radon hazard brings, Kansans should be asking themselves, “Have we tested our home yet?” The risk of developing lung cancer increases as the concentration and length of exposure to radon increases. Many scientists believe children may run an even greater risk from radon exposure than adults, and smokers are definitely at greater risk than nonsmokers.
The Surgeon General's Office, the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognize that indoor radon constitutes a substantial health risk. They have publicly advised all homes be tested.
Simple test kits can reveal the amount of radon in any building. Those with high levels can be fixed with simple and affordable venting techniques. Some cities and counties' building codes require new homes to be built using radon-resistant techniques. Cities, such as Topeka and Manhattan, and additional cities in Kansas, are considering this modification to their building codes. Testing is critical, because it is the only way to know if a building has significant concentrations of radon.
The McPherson County Extension Office has test kits available throughout the year for $7.50 a kit. The test results from the kits are very accurate, provided the included instructions are followed properly. Test kits also can be purchased at many local hardware and builder's supply stores.
More information on Radon is available at www.kansasradonprogram.org, including a list of certified testers and radon mitigation contractors or you can call the Kansas Radon Hotline: 1-800-693-KDHE (693-5343).
Contact the McPherson County Extension Office at 620-241-1523, or check our website, www.ksre.ksu.edu