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Begin 2009 by testing your home for radon

Posted 12/16/2008

January is not only a time to ring in the New Year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Gov. Jim Gibbons have also declared it National Radon Action Month.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) and the Nevada State Health Division (NSHD) are urging all Nevadans to get their homes tested for radon, a cancer-causing radioactive gas. The EPA estimates that radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States, making it the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

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. It is an odorless, colorless, 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. 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.

Winter is the ideal time to test your home for radon, as most of us keep our homes closed up during cold weather. For your first test, it is best to use a short-term test kit, which remains in your home for two to four days. This kit contains activated charcoal, which adsorbs radon and provides extremely accurate results.

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.

UNCE, in cooperation with the NSHD, is offering free radon test kits for a limited time. For a free kit or more information, go to the Nevada Radon Education Web site, www.unce.unr.edu/radon/, to locate the nearest UNCE office providing free radon test kits, or call UNCE’s Radon Program hot line, (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 NSHD, (775) 687-7531 or (775) 687-7536.

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