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Silent killer noted as EPA, state of Utah launch National Radon Action Month

Radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to the EPA comes into homes through cracks in the foundation and walls of the structure. It is produced from underground uranium in the earths crust.

By C.J. MCMANUS
Sun Advocate community editor

While most Carbon Country residents are well aware of the dangers posed by carbon monoxide in the home, fewer know of the fatal dangers posed by radon.

A national Environmental Protection Agency press release noted recently that breathing indoor radon causes nearly one hundred times more deaths each year than carbon monoxide. The gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation and some 20,000 people will die this year due to breathing too much radon without even knowing it.

Radon is an invisible radioactive gas that seeps into homes undetected through foundation cracks and can reach harmful levels if trapped indoors. It travels up from underground sources of uranium in the earths crust and the EPA estimates that one in 15 homes will have a radon level considered high by the agency.

Utah has jumped on the prevention bandwagon as Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. also declared Jan. 2009 as "Utah Radon Action" month.

The gas has been found in every type of home and in every state in the union. Analysts at CNN recommend that individuals find and purchase radon test kits, which are available at most hardware stores and typically cost less than $20.

"In our national drive to reduce greenhouse gases by making our homes greener, we shouldn't forget that they can't truly be green without being a safe place for people to live," said Marcus Peacock, the EPA's deputy administrator. "It's remarkably easy to protect our loved ones by testing for radon and building new homes with radon-resistant features that allow everyone to breathe freely and safely."

Utah has even enacted its own site dedicated to the safe detection of radon.

According to radon.utah.gov, "you can't see radon and you can't smell or taste it but it may be a problem in your home."

Testing is the only way to know if a residence is at risk for high radon levels. The EPA along with the surgeon general recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. The EPA also recommends testing in schools.

Millions of American homes have already tested radon free, indicated the EPA.

If a problem with the gas arises, however, radon reduction systems work and are not too costly. Some systems can reduce levels in the home by up to 99 percent.

"Even high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels," states the site.

For people looking at building homes, radon resistant construction techniques can be effective in preventing radon entry. When installed properly and completely, the simple and inexpensive techniques can help reduce indoor radon in homes. In addition, installing the devices at the time of construction makes it easier and less expensive to reduce radon further if these passive techniques don't reduce the levels as much as needed.

While radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home though well water. In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off the gas as well. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.

Radon can enter ones home by any of the following techniques:

•Cracks in solid floors.

•Construction joints.

•Cracks in walls.

•Gaps in suspended floors.

•Gaps around service pipes.

•Cavities inside walls.

•The water supply.

Radon preventative actions have saved an estimated 6,000 lives in the last 20 years. The EPA's goal is to double that number to 12,000 live saved in the next five years. All Utahns can contribute to saving someone's life by testing and reducing high levels in existing homes or testing and building radon-resistant new homes.




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