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Test to Find Out Radon Levels, Get Lowered by Certified Mitigator

Some areas have higher concentration potential than others, but homes with elevated radon concentrations have been found in every county in Nevada.

Any building with contact to the soil can have a radon problem because radon comes from the decay of uranium, which can be found in rock and soil underneath our homes, offices and schools.

The good news is that radon levels are easy to test for and high levels can be lowered by a certified mitigator.

Results collected since 1989 show that about one in four Nevada homes have elevated radon levels, yet many homeowners have not tested for radon. This might be because radon is an odorless, colorless, invisible gas and there are no immediate adverse, visible effects.

Radon gas quietly enters homes through cracks in the floor, construction joints and gaps around service pipes.

During the winter, with our homes sealed up tightly, a stack effect can occur and most of the air in our home comes up from the ground below. With our windows closed tightly and no natural ventilation, the gas can seep up and build to elevated levels.

The rate of gas movement in soil affects the accumulation of radon in a home. Typically, the more porous the material is under or near a home, the more pathways there are for radon gas to travel up and into that home.

Radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 21,000 people die each year due to radon-induced lung cancer. That is because radon is a radioactive gas, which decays into tiny radioactive particles that can get trapped inside lungs.

As the particles continue to decay, they release bursts of energy, which can damage sensitive lung tissue and might lead to lung cancer over an extended period of time.

The levels you are exposed to and the amount of time you are exposed play into the risk factor, but this is a risk that is preventable.

The EPA recommends an action level of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/l), which is a measurement of radioactivity. There is no "safe" level of radon, but the EPA recommends fixing your home if levels inside are at or above the action level.

If your home shows elevated radon levels, radon reduction systems are very effective and not too costly. A certified mitigator can install a system which will pull the gas from your foundation and vent it outside before it has a chance to build up in your home.

After a house has been mitigated, retest the house after 24 hours to make sure that radon levels have been lowered below 4 pCi/l. The EPA also recommends testing the home every two years thereafter to ensure the system is working properly.

The first step in reducing your risk is to test your home for radon.

Radon testing is very easy and free short-term test kits are available in Washoe County, Carson City and

Douglas County Cooperative Extension offices, and in other counties for $5 at Cooperative Extension offices.

Set out the test kit for about three days to collect an air sample, then send it to a lab for analysis. The lab mails radon results back to the homeowner.

Test your home today by visiting your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Office and picking up a kit, or call the radon hotline at 888-Radon10.

For more information on radon testing, mitigation and test data in Nevada, visit www.RadonNV.com.

Cooperative Extension is sponsoring a Test Your Home for Radon and Win contest, which will award two homeowners in Carson City and Douglas or Washoe counties with a $1,500 credit toward a radon mitigation system.

Nevada homeowners who test before Feb. 28 with Nevada Radon Program test kit and find radon levels of 4 pCi/l or above are eligible.

See complete contest details at www.RadonNV.com.

Megan Long is radon education coordinator for the Nevada Radon Education Program.

To view this article, visit http://www.rgj.com/article/20110219/LIV04/102190306/Test-to-find-out-radon-levels-get-lowered-by-certified-mitigator.