AS Fall approaches, many homeowners will check and clean their heating units, put on the storm doors and windows, and caulk windows and doors to make them snug and free from the cold weather that lies ahead. This is also an excellent time to test your home for radon. Radon tests are much more accurate once the home has been closed up in anticipation of cold weather.
Radon is an invisible, radioactive odorless gas that is a by-product of naturally decaying elements in the soil. Radon has been linked to cancer in humans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon may be responsible for 14,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S.
Radon moves easily into homes, through dirt floors, hollow-block walls, cracks in foundations and walls, openings around drains, pipes and sump pumps.
The NY Commissioner emphasized that radon testing is most important in the 37 New York counties designated by the EPA as high radon areas. These are: Albany, Allegany, Broome, Cattataugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Genesee, Greene, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.
"To alert residents of these counties to the health hazards associated with radon and encourage them to test their homes, the state Health Department has mounted an EPA-supported public health education effort," the Commissioner said. "The Department is mailing all homeowners a brochure, entitled "Rx for Radon," that provides detailed information on radon. The Department is also encouraging physicians to discuss radon with their patients, and has asked local Emergency Medical Services units and Volunteer Fire Departments to mount outreach and education activities in their communities."
Testing for radon is relatively simple and inexpensive. Test kits are free from the state Health Department to New York residents who have participated in certain energy conservation programs. Kits can also be purchased at cost from the department, as well as in hardware stores and in the hardware sections of discount outlets.
The test kit should be placed in the lowest lived-in level of the home. The test kit gathers a sample of the radon gas which can be analyzed after it is mailed to a qualified laboratory.
If the laboratory's analysis indicates an elevated radon level -- 4 picocuries per liter (4pCi/L) or more -- test again to verify the measurement before taking corrective action.
If the average of the two tests confirms an elevated radon level, a homeowner should seek the advice of an EPA-listed radon mitigator. Most homes with elevated radon levels can be corrected for between $500 and $2,500. The average cost is $1,500.
For more information on radon, call the state Health Department at 1-800-458-1158.