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Test your home for radon: It is a silent killer

Posted 11/26/2008

Most people associate lung cancer with smoking, but nonsmokers can get lung cancer from a killer gas in their homes. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas present in many homes and buildings, yet few people know about the risk or have their homes tested for radon.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Nevada State Health Division are urging all Nevadans to get their homes tested for radon. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 21,000 people in the U.S. die each year from lung cancer caused by indoor radon exposure. Radon kills more people than secondhand smoke, drunken driving, falls in the home, drowning and home fires.

Radon 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 and invisible gas that can reach harmful levels when trapped indoors.

Radon can enter any home -- old or new, well-sealed or drafty -- and even those with no visible cracks. Each building is unique. 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.

The best time to test your home for radon is during winter when homes typically are closed up. The first test uses a short-term test kit that remains in your home for 2-4 days and is extremely accurate.

If you find high levels of radon, the EPA recommends a follow-up test. Radon levels fluctuate naturally, and it is important to confirm the initial test before making a decision to fix the home. A 3- to 12-month test is used to confirm radon levels during different seasons and living conditions.

If you have elevated levels of radon in your home, it’s best to have the problem addressed by a qualified radon professional. Radon solutions can cost from $500-5,000.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with the Nevada State Health Division, is offering free radon test kits for a limited time. For a free kit or more information, go to the Nevada Radon Education Program Web site, www.unce.unr.edu/radon, to locate the nearest UNCE office providing free radon test kits, or call University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, (888) RADON10 (888-723-6610) or (775) 856-8408. For a nominal shipping fee, you can also receive a test kit by mail. For additional information on radon, contact the Nevada State Health Division, (775)687-7531 or(775)687-7536.

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