Testing homes for radon gas is now more important than ever

State program urges home testing during National Radon Action Month

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority is recognizing National Radon Action Month during January by encouraging people in the state to test their homes for radon, an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking.

Many parts of Oregon remain at risk of exposure to high levels of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes up from the ground and is drawn into buildings, where it can build up to dangerous levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. In addition to being the second leading cause of lung cancer, it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

People can take steps to reduce their exposure to radon by testing their homes for radon and, if necessary, hiring a professional to reduce it to a safe level. The best time to test is during the heating season, when windows and doors are closed up tight for long periods.

“Now more than ever, we are spending more time in our homes. That means more exposure to potentially high radon levels. They only way to know if you have a high radon level is to test,” recommends Jara Popinga, Oregon Radon Awareness Program coordinator at OHA.

Many test kits are priced between $15 and $25 and can be found in most hardware stores. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of common home repairs, such as painting or having a new water heater installed.

The Oregon Radon Awareness Program collects radon test data from test kit manufacturers to understand which areas of the state have the potential for high radon levels and to identify areas where educational outreach efforts need to be focused. The program is offering a free radon test kit to residents whose homes are in ZIP codes where fewer than 20 radon test results have been recorded. Residents can learn more about the free short-term radon test kit program and how to apply at www.healthoregon.org/radon. Free test kits are available while supplies last.

For more information on which areas of the state are at moderate to high risk of having elevated radon levels, radon testing and mitigation, or how to order a test kit online, contact the Oregon Radon Awareness Program at radon.program@state.or.us, or visit www.healthoregon.org/radon.