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Test your home for radon

Posted 1/10/2008

Contact University of Nevada Cooperative Extension for free, simple-to-use kit

RENO, Nev. - Most people associate lung cancer with smoking. Although smokers have a higher incidence of lung cancer than nonsmokers do, about 21,000 nonsmokers die of lung cancer each year, caused by indoor radon exposure. Yet, few people know about the radon risk or have their homes tested for it.

In response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Governor Jim Gibbons have declared January Radon Action Month. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Nevada State Health Division have taken the lead in Nevada, urging all residents to test their homes for radon. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium in soil and enters homes through foundation cracks, openings and some of the porous materials used to construct foundations and floors of homes. It is an odorless, colorless, invisible gas that can reach harmful levels if trapped indoors.

Radon can enter any home, old or new. Two neighboring homes can have very different radon levels. The only way to know what the radon levels are inside your home is to measure them.

January is the ideal time to test your home for radon, as most of us keep our homes closed up during cold weather. If you are ready to test your home for radon, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with the Nevada State Health Division, is offering free short-term radon test kits to Nevada residents for a limited time. For a free kit, call University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, (775) 784-4848. For your first test, it is best to use the short-term test kit, which remains in your home for two to four days. It contains activated charcoal, which absorbs radon, and provides extremely accurate results. If you do find high levels of radon in your home, the EPA recommends a follow-up test, as radon levels fluctuate naturally. A long-term test may be recommended.

If you do have elevated levels of radon in your home, it is best to have the problem addressed by a qualified professional. Radon problems can be fixed for a cost similar to that of many common home repairs, ranging from about $800 to $2,500.

For more information, call University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, (775) 784-4848; or the Nevada State Health Division, (775) 687-7531. You can also visit your local Cooperative Extension offices in Churchill, Clark, Elko, Lincoln, Northern Nye and Esmeralda, Mineral and Southern Nye counties or the EPA's National Radon Action Month website. California residents can go to http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/environhealth/Pages/RadonTestKits.aspx for information on obtaining a test kit.

Finally, you can also join the Air Quality Division of the Washoe County District Health Department for a free radon education class and receive a free radon test kit at the class. Classes will be held noon - 1 p.m., Jan. 16 at the Downtown Reno Library; 6 - 7 p.m., Jan. 29 at the South Valley Library; and 4 - 5 p.m., Jan. 30 at the Incline Village Library.

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