Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers, and the only way to know it’s in your home is to test for it. It is an odorless, tasteless gas that has been found in 40 percent of the homes in Idaho that have been tested. It’s a very serious health issue in Idaho, and it causes more than 21,000 deaths a year in the United States.
How does radon get into homes?
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium. It seeps from soil into homes and buildings through crawl spaces, and cracks and openings in foundations. It tends to build up the most in winter, when people have their homes closed up against the cold. That’s why now is a good time to test for it in the lowest level of your home where you spend time.
Why should we care about this in Idaho?
High levels of radon have been found in every county in the state. Since radon is found throughout Idaho, it’s important to have your home tested so you can remove it if levels are high.
Any specific areas of the state we should know about?
We have results from all over the state, and in addition to northern and eastern Idaho, we have seen very high levels in Elmore, Blaine, and Custer counties. We have also seen very high test results in certain areas of Ada and Canyon counties. It’s difficult to speak for some areas because of the lack of test results, but every home in Idaho really should be tested.
How does radon cause lung cancer?
When radon gas decays, it breaks down into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As the particles continue to decay, they release small bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue and may lead to lung cancer in some people after long-term exposure. The risk of developing lung cancer depends on several variables, including how long you’ve been exposed and how high the levels of radon are. Smoking in addition to radon exposure increases your risk even more.
How can you tell if your home has radon in it?
The only way to know for sure is to test for it. We already know the dangerous gas is present in all areas of the state. Every home is different and should be tested, regardless of the age of your home or the type of construction. Since homes in the same neighborhood will have different test results for radon, testing your home is the only way to know for sure whether you have a radon problem. The good news is that every home with high levels of radon can be fixed. The testing itself is simple and inexpensive. Test kits cost $9.95, and you can order them at www.radonidaho.org. The cost includes the test, shipping costs, and lab analysis.
How would someone know what to do after they receive their results?
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you reduce radon in your home if you have levels at or above 4.0 picocuries per liter of air. Radon mitigation can be done by homeowners or hired professionals. If you have questions about your results or what you should do next, you can call the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Indoor Environment Program at 1-800-445-8647 or visit www.radonidaho.org.
(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670.)