Test homes for radon

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January 19, 2011 - 12:00 AM

GARDEN CITY — There’s a saying: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Whether you agree or disagree, Kansas State Research and Extension is urging property owners to test for radon during January, National Radon Awareness Month.
Radon is a naturally occurring element produced from radioactive decay in the soil. The odorless, colorless, tasteless gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
National radon surveys show that 6 percent of homes in the United States have radon concentrations above the recommended maximum level. In Kansas, one in four homes have unacceptable levels, according to Bruce Snead, Kansas State University Research and Extension residential energy specialist. A county map, viewable at kansasradonprogram.org, notes that Woodson and Neosho counties have some of the lowest levels in the state. Allen County soils are in the middle ranges.
“Anyone can be vulnerable” to the effects of radon, Snead said, although smokers are most susceptible.
The cancer-causing gas can seep into a house from soil beneath the home through cracks or joints in the foundation. But, he added, detection is easy and mitigation only a moderate expense.
Detection starts with a home radon test kit, available at the Southwind District Extension office for $6. Tests may also be purchased from larger home and hardware stores outside of Iola or online. Testing is important because it’s the only way to tell how much of the gas is present, Snead said.
The tests should be conducted at the lowest lived-in level, such as a basement or main-floor bedroom, 20 to 24 inches above floor level. Testing, which takes two to five days, is most accurate in winter months when homes are closed to outside air. Testing in humid rooms such as kitchens or bathrooms is not recommended.
If initial results are high, a more sensitive follow-up test is recommended. If initial results are low, further testing is needed only if significant changes are made to one’s foundation, heating/cooling system or air sealing features.
If radon mitigation is warranted, hiring a professional contractor is recommended. Lists of Kansas radon measurements and mitigation contractors who voluntarily participate in one of two national radon proficiency programs are available at www.kansasradonprogram.org/contractors.
Beginning July 1, all professional radon measurement and mitigation technicians and laboratories providing services in Kansas will need to obtain state certification through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Since July 1, 2009, Kansas residential real estate contracts must contain a specific paragraph recommending radon testing and disclosure of test results. There are, however, no laws requiring such tests.
More information about radon is available at www.kansasradonprogram.org or at the Southwind Extension office in the basement of the Allen County Courthouse, or by calling (800) 693-5343.

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