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January is National Radon Action Month

1/24/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

GREATER AKRON — January has been designated as Radon Action Month by various federal agencies, and this month is a good time to test buildings for its presence.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website describes radon as an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. The gas can enter a home through cracks and holes, and new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements can be affected, according to EPA officials.

Exposure to radon in a home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, according to EPA officials. The average concentration of radon in the air of an American home is about 1.3 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). A measure greater than 4 pCi/L is considered serious, but EPA officials recommend that a home with levels greater than 2 pCi/L should be mitigated.

A mapping of radon found in homes across the United States shows Summit County was categorized as being in Zone 1, which is defined as having the highest potential for the presence of radon gas in homes, with a predicted average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L. That map is available on the website www.epa.gov/radon.

Testing for radon

The EPA website states the only way to know if radon is present in a home is to test for its presence in all levels below a third floor. “Do-it-yourself” radon test kits are available through the mail and in hardware stores, with two types of tests available: short-term and long-term, both of which use various methods to measure the presence of radon in the home.

A short-term test is left in a home two to 90 days, while a long-term test stays in the home for more than 90 days. According to EPA officials, the presence of radon varies day to day and seasonally, so a short-term test is less accurate. Officials recommend taking a short-term test first, and if the test indicates a measurement of 4 pCi/L or higher, follow it with a second short-term test immediately or a long-term test. If the measure remains high on a second short-term test, a homeowner should address the problem immediately, according to EPA officials.

Even if a home tests low, radon testing should be repeated in the future, officials added.

A list of qualified testers is available at www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html.

In addition, Summit County Public Health offers a free do-it-yourself mail-in radon test kit as part of its Indoor Radon Program. A coupon to receive the radon test kit is available at www.scphoh.org. Residents can fill out the form and mail it in to receive the free kit.

Homebuyers and renters also can ask for radon tests before making a commitment to the residence. For details, visit www.epa.gov/radon/pubs /hmbyguid.html.

Lowering radon levels

Most homes that record a measurable level of radon can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs, according to EPA officials, but because of the technical knowledge and special skills required, using a trained contractor is suggested. Checking references and getting more than one estimate also is advised. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/radon/radon test.html.

The EPA website states the most commonly used method to remove radon from a home is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. This system, known as a soil suction radon reduction system, does not require major changes to a home, and sealing foundation cracks makes this kind of system more effective and cost-efficient. Similar systems also can be installed in houses with crawl spaces.

The right system for a home depends on its design and other factors, according to EPA officials.

Ways to reduce radon from a home are discussed in the EPA’s “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction,” which is available at www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/consguid.html.

Radon in water

Radon also can enter a home through water, although EPA officials say this is less likely, and well water is a more likely source than surface water. According to EPA officials, radon in water poses an inhalation and ingestion risk, but research shows the risk of getting lung cancer from breathing radon in air is much higher than the risk of stomach cancer from swallowing water with radon in it. Most of the risk from radon in water comes through its release into the air when water is used for showering and other household purposes.

EPA officials state water can be tested and treated for the presence of radon. A point-of-entry treatment to reduce high levels of radon in water can effectively remove it from the water before it enters a home. Point-of-use treatment devices remove radon from water at the tap, but this method only treats a small portion of the water used in a home and is not effective in reducing the risk from breathing radon released into the air from other water used in the home, according to EPA officials.

For more information on testing for radon in water, call the EPA’s Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visit www.epa.gov/safewater/radon.html. For information about water that comes from a private well, visit www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/citguide.html#contacts.

More general information about radon is also available from:

• the Indoor Radon Program at www.odh.ohio.gov/odhPro grams/rp/radlic/radon.aspx; by writing to 246 N. High St., 7th floor, 35 Building, Columbus, OH 43215; or by calling 614-644-2727 or 800-523-4439;

• the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) at www.odh.ohio.gov under “Environmental Health”; and

• the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollu tion/indoor_air.htm.

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