EPA urges homeowners to test for radon

Posted: January 6, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — It’s not enough to be aware of the dangers of radon gas. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has designated January as “National Radon Action Month” and is urging health agencies across the country to get the word out that this invisible, odorless gas is the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers.

The EPA also encourages people to test for it.

Radon can be found just about everywhere, said Dr. Charles Devine, director of the state’s Lord Fairfax Health District, which covers Winchester and surrounding jurisdictions.

Radon is formed by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil.

Devine said the EPA map of radon zones in Virginia varies from Zone 1, the most likely area to find radon gas, to Zone 3, the least likely.

“All of the Lord Fairfax Health Department area falls in Zone 1,” he said.

The gas can collect in houses, particularly basements, by rising through cracks in foundations or walls.

“Across the country, it is estimated that 21,000 deaths per year are due to exposure to radon,” Devine said, adding, “The risk is greater for smokers than nonsmokers.”

Devine said radon testing kits are readily available in local hardware stores and sell for under $20.

If a homeowner finds a high level through the test, Devine recommends working with a certified contractor to eliminate the problem.

There are two organizations that certify contractors, he added, the National Radon Proficiency Program and the National Radon Safety Board, both of which have websites.

The Virginia Health Department has several pages of information on radon testing and treatments available on its website, vdh.virginia.gov. And there is a new website, RadonMonth.org.

Radon has caused more American fatalities than carbon monoxide, fires or handguns combined, according to the Cancer Prevention Centers.

“The problem can be solved without too much trouble or expense,” Devine pointed out, but people have to take action.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com