Radon: the big health threat we may be ignoring

If you’ve never had your home tested for radon, the possibility that you may be breathing in a radioactive gas is something you’d probably rather not think about.

This week, the federal government is urging everybody to about it anyway.

Radon problems can be fixed. And all too often, they’re not.

Radon in homes is responsible for 20,000 lung cancer deaths a year, and that makes radon the second-leading cause of lung cancer deaths after smoking, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Another statistic to take to heart: Radon is the leading cause of death for non-smokers, according to Champaign-Urbana Public Health District environmental health specialist Michael Flanagan.

“If you don’t smoke, your biggest chance of getting lung cancer is  radon,” he said.

Radon seeps into homes through cracks in floors and walls, construction joints, gaps in suspended floors and around service pipes, cavities inside walls and through the water supply, according to the EPA.

Radon is literally in every state in the U.S. One in 15 homes in the U.S. has an elevated level of it — no matter where that home happens to be.

In Illinois, radon is in every county, and in Champaign County, half the homes test higher for radon than the level at which the EPA advises taking mitigation action, Flanagan said.

“It’s not our intention to scare,” Flanagan says. “It’s very easy to correct this problem.”

First step: Pick up a do-it-yourself home test kit. They’re even available free for all Champaign County residents at the public health district at 201 W. Kenyon Road, C. Test kits measure radon in terms of picocuries per liter of air or pCi/L.

If you should need to mitigate, the cost runs $800 to $1,200. Pricey?

“It’s not nearly as expensive as chemotherapy,” Flanagan says.

More about Radon:  http://epa.gov/radon/

 

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