January is Radon Month: Take action to learn about radon danger

By Nancy Schuster
Frontier Extension District Agent

While giving a program on radon to a local men’s group, one of the men said, “Oh brother, what’s the government doing now? When they (government) get tired of radon there will be something else they want us to worry about.”

It’s easy to be confused about radon. Let’s learn of some Kansas Radon Action Month resources.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is caused from the natural radioactive decay of radium and uranium found in the soil beneath a house or building. The amount of radon in the soil depends on soil chemistry, which varies from one house to the next. Radon levels in the soil range from a few hundred to several thousands of pCi/L (picocuries per liter). The amount of radon that escapes from the soil to enter the house depends on the weather, soil porosity, soil moisture, and the suction within the house.

foodforthoughtRadon exposure in homes and other indoor environments is the leading cause of lung cancer death for non-smokers in the United States and the second overall cause of lung cancer death behind tobacco smoking.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that approximately 1 in 4 homes in Kansas will test at or above the EPA’s radon level of 4.0 picocuries of radon per liter of indoor air. The US Surgeon General and the Kansas Radon Program recommends all homes in Kansas be tested for radon gas.

To see a map of Kansas that shows radon levels by county, use this web address: www.kansasradonprogram.org/county-map. This map shows Anderson, Franklin, and Osage counties with average tests over 4.0 pCi/L.

According to the following EPA radon risk chart, radon is a serious health problem. If 1,000 people were exposed to this level of radon over a lifetime who are:

Annual Radon Level Smokers Never Smokers
20 pCi/L 26 percent or 260 people could get lung cancer 4 percent or 36 people could get lung cancer
10 pCi/L 15 percent or 150 people could get lung cancer 2 percent or 18 people could get lung cancer
4 pCi/L 6 percent or 62 people could get lung cancer 0.7 percent people could get lung cancer
2 pCi/L 3 percent or 32 people could get lung cancer 0.4 percent or 4 people could get lung cancer

To test your home for radon, kits can be purchased at most Kansas State Research and Extension county or district offices for a reduced fee. All three Frontier District offices (Garnett, Ottawa, and Lyndon) have kits for sale. Radon kits can also be purchased online via www.sosradon.org at retail price; local hardware stores may also carry radon test kits. Test kits purchased through the Frontier District offices include the laboratory analysis fee and return postage.

It is law in Kansas that all residential real estate contracts include a recommendation that home buyers include a radon test on homes purchased in Kansas. Kansas law also requires that all radon testing performed during real estate transactions be conducted by radon measurement professionals certified by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. A list of KDHE certified radon professionals, both measurement and mitigation, can be obtained at www.kansasradonprogram.org.

If your home has elevated radon levels, the most common technique used to reduce elevated indoor radon levels in single- and two-family homes is called active soil depressurization (ASD). An ASD radon mitigation system is a permanently installed pipe and fan system that places a direct constant vacuum on the soil beneath the house’s foundation, constantly reducing the amount of radon under the foundation that can penetrate into the living space of the home.

ASD radon mitigation systems can reliably and easily reduce radon levels in 95 percent of homes or more. In Kansas, the average starting radon level of homes that have been mitigated is approximately 9.5 pCi/L. The average post-mitigation radon result is 1.3 pCi/L.

January is Radon Month. Winter is an excellent time to test for radon because our homes are shut up. Radon kits are easy to use. Stop by a Frontier District Extension office to purchase your radon kit.

Information in this column came from the Kansas Radon Program; you can find lots more research-based radon information at www.kansasradonprogram.org, or call 800-693-5343 to speak with the Kansas Radon Program experts.

schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas