January has been designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as National Radon Action Month. Here’s what you need to know about radon and health.
What are the hazards?
Radon is a naturally occurring gas. You can’t see, smell, or taste it. Outdoors, it’s harmlessly dispersed in the
air, but when it’s trapped inside a building, it becomes a health problem. If high levels of radon are trapped in your home, for example, it could make your whole family sick.
The main hazard of radon is lung cancer. According to the U.S. surgeon general, radon is responsible for an alarming number of new cases of lung cancer every year. Perhaps the greatest danger of all is that most people might have no knowledge of this hazard. Some may have never heard of radon, much less that it could be present in their homes and affect the health of their families.
What can you do about radon?
EPA and the surgeon general urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes for radon. Testing for high levels of radon is simple and inexpensive. Radon test kits that meet EPA requirements are available at local hardware stores and home improvement stores, and many kits cost less than $25. If the test indicates dangerous levels of radon in a home, prompt action should be taken to correct the problem. This generally requires the services of an experi- enced professional contractor.
How can you get more information about radon?
Visit www.epa.gov/radon/nram/public.html. You can also call the agency at 800-767-7236, or contact one of EPA’s regional offices (see the blue pages of your phone book). The EPA website provides a state-by-state list of radon information programs. Some states maintain lists of private contractors available in the state, and some states even have state-run mitigation programs. There are also privately run national radon programs listed on the EPA website that can provide information about radon mitigation and can recommend qualified contractors.