Test for radon to avoid health risks

By: Linda Shepard | C&G Newspapers | Published January 28, 2015

Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, and high levels of the gas in a house meet the equivalent of smoking eight cigarettes a day, say World Health Organization officials.

Radon gas invades homes and buildings through foundation cracks and openings, and is invisible with no scent. If a test kit determines high levels of radon in a home, simple fixes can lower health risks.

“Testing for radon is an easy and important step in protecting the health of your family,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Shawn Garvin in a statement. “By reducing radon exposure, we can make our homes, schools and communities healthier places to live, learn, work and play.”

The test kits are simple to use with easy testing and mailing instructions. If high radon levels are found in a building or home, EPA officials recommend hiring a qualified radon mitigation contractor. A soil suction technique, recommended by EPA officials, prevents radon from entering a home by drawing the radon from below the house and venting it outside through pipes.

January is National Radon Action Month. Winter is an especially good time to test for radon because windows and doors are closed and families tend to spend more time inside where radon can be trapped, Garvin said. Testing should be done on all house levels below the third floor.

Radon gas occurs naturally in soil and rock, and is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of naturally occurring radium and uranium in the earth. It is usually harmless outdoors, but when the gas is trapped in a building or home, it can be a health hazard. It moves upward through soil and enters buildings through cracks and openings in foundation floors or walls, and it can accumulate to unhealthy levels.

According to EPA officials, radon gas is responsible for approximately 14,000 deaths nationally each year. Radon is a problem that affects millions of homes, daycares, schools and buildings across the country.

Radon test kits are found at home improvement stores for approximately $20 and at county health departments. Currently, the Macomb County Health Department is offering free radon test kits to Macomb County residents.

The testing kits are available for pickup at Macomb County Health Department locations at 43525 Elizabeth St. in Mount Clemens and at 27690 Van Dyke Ave. in Warren.

“Testing is easy and is the only way to find out if you have any problem,” said Partow Guity, toxicologist for the Environmental Health Division of the Macomb County Health Department in a statement. 

Oakland County health officials are offering $5 radon testing kits to Oakland County residents in January. Radon test kits for homes are available at the North Oakland Health Center at 1200 North Telegraph, Building 34E in Pontiac; and at the South Oakland Health Center located at 27725 Greenfield Road in Southfield.

“You can’t see or smell radon,” said Tony Drautz, administrator of the Oakland County Health Division’s Environmental Health Services in a statement. “People tend to ignore the possibility that it might exist at high levels in their homes.”