Winter, when homes are closed up, is the best time of year to test your home for radon. This odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas causes nearly 100 times more deaths every year than carbon monoxide poisoning. With radon exposure being the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, it’s estimated that approximately 21,000 people die every year from breathing too much of it. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment estimates that about 200 Kansans are newly diagnosed with lung cancer every year due to being exposed to radon.
Radon is a gas that is produced as uranium in the soil decomposes. This invisible and odorless radioactive gas seeps into homes undetected through foundation cracks and can easily reach harmful levels when trapped indoors. Once breathed and in the lungs, it acts like a spark zapping lung tissue and causing mutations that can lead to lung cancer.
With the exception of Jackson County, all counties in the north-central part of the state have radon levels that are too high. With the EPA recommending radon levels in the air being no higher than 4 pCi/L, the average radon level for homes tested in the River Valley Extension District in 2010 was 6.9. Of the 278 homes tested in Clay county, the average radon level was 7.3 pCi/L. Republic’s 159 tested homes had an average score of 7.0 pCi/L. In Washington county, 266 homes were tested and averaged 6.9 pCi/L and Cloud’s 327 tested homes averaged 6.2 pCi/L.
Testing for the presence of radon is simple and inexpensive and something every homeowner should and can do. Test kits, instructions and informational literature are available in each of the River Valley Extension offices in Belleville, Clay Center, Concordia and Washington. Information and informational videos are also available online from the Kansas Radon program at http://www.kansasradonprogram.org.
Once detected through testing, radon levels can be reduced in existing homes by the homeowner or a licensed contractor. New homes can be planned and built to include radon-resistant features.
For more information and/or to purchase a radon kit, contact your local KSU River Valley Extension District office.