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State, university urge NV residents to test for radon

Posted 1/29/2010

Results show 1 in 4 homes have elevated levels; meetings throughout southern Nevada

It has no smell or taste and you can’t see it, but this gas can accumulate to harmful levels when trapped indoors. If you haven’t tested your home for it, you could be exposing your family to a known carcinogen that can cause lung cancer over time.

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is present in elevated concentrations in many homes and buildings, and is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Radon-induced lung cancer kills more people than secondhand smoke, drunken driving, falls in the home, drowning or home fires. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 21,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer caused by indoor radon exposure. The American Lung Association, American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, and the World Health Organization all recognize radon as a serious national health problem.

In efforts to educate people about indoor radon exposure and the state radon program, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) is hosting several presentations throughout February in an effort to make this health risk known and to encourage people to take action by having their homes tested. Winter is an ideal time to test a home for radon. When a home is closed up during cooler weather months, radon concentrations increase. UNCE is encouraging everyone in Nevada to test their home for radon. To this end, Cooperative Extension is offering free radon test kits at program presentations being offered in the community.

Presentations in February

  • Feb.3 6:00 p.m. Centennial Hills Library (6711 Buffalo Dr., LV)
  • Feb.4 6:30 p.m. Rainbow Library (3150 N. Buffalo, LV)
  • Feb.6 1:00 p.m. Yucca Information Center, Pahrump. NV
  • Feb.8 6:00 p.m. Beatty Communication Center (100 S. A Ave., Beatty,NV)
  • Feb.9 2:00 p.m. Public Employees of Nevada, Rainbow Library (3150 N Buffalo, LV)
  • Feb. 17 6:30 p.m. Summerlin Library (1771 Inner Circle Dr. LV)
  • Feb. 24 1:00 p.m. Laughlin Library (2840 S. Needles Hwy., Laughlin, NV)

For more information and to verify date and time of presentations, please contact Laura Au-Yeung, Southern Area Radon Program Coordinator, at 702-257-5550 or e-mail au-yeungl@unce.unr.edu .

Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium and is found in soil, rocks and water. As radon decays into radioactive particles, they can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime.

The amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be many years. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer, but a smoker exposed to radon has an even greater risk of developing lung cancer. Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on how much radon is in your home, the amount of time you spend in your home and whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked.

In Nevada, with more than 5,394 usable radon test results since September 2003, elevated radon levels above the EPA Action Level of 4 pCi/l have been found in one out of every four homes tested in Nevada. The highest radon potential is in Carson City, Douglas, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Lyon, Mineral, Pershing, Washoe and White Pine counties. Elevated radon levels were found in Clark County; 14 percent of the homes tested in Henderson, 17 percent in Boulder City, and 3.7 percent in Las Vegas, had elevated radon levels. Elevated radon levels were also found in Pahrump and Panaca.

You can’t predict which homes will have high radon levels, as two neighboring homes can have very different radon levels. Variables that determine radon levels include how the home was constructed, lifestyle factors and the strength of the radon source beneath the house. The only way to know a building’s radon levels is to test. A simple three-day test can determine whether a home has elevated levels of radon. If high levels of radon are found, there is a fix for reducing radon levels.

UNCE offers radon test kits at most Cooperative Extension offices across the state. Free test kits currently are offered in Southern Nye, Lincoln and Clark counties. For more information or to find out where to get a test kit, visit the Nevada Radon Education Program Web site, www.unce.unr.edu , or call the Radon Hot Line, 888-RADON10 (888-723-6610).

The major source of radon concentrations in a home comes from the soil beneath a home, entering through foundation cracks, plumbing and utility openings and some of the porous materials used to construct foundations and floors. Radon can enter any home — crawl space, basement or slab on grade — or building that has contact to the ground. You can’t predict which homes will have high radon levels, as two neighboring homes can have very different radon levels. The only way to know a building’s radon levels is to test. A simple three-day test can determine whether a home has elevated levels of radon. If high levels of radon are found, there is a fix for reducing radon levels. A certified radon mitigator is recommended. Information for mitigating radon problems is available on the UNCE Web site, www.unce.unr.edu/radon . For additional information or technical assistance, contact the Nevada State Health Division, (775) 687-7531or (775) 687-7536.

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