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Ringwood and West Milford, NJ Should Test for Radon

Ringwood and West Milford Should Test for Radon, Said County Officials

Ringwood and West Milford residents will get first dibs on a free test kit to determine whether their homes are at elevated risks for radon gas.

The Passaic County Department of Health has teamed up with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Radon Bureau in a special radon awareness program to promote testing for radon in homes. With the Radon Awareness Program, the DEP provides outreach assistance to endorse household radon testing.

"Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon," said Passaic County Freeholder Terry Duffy, a West Milford resident, in a press release from Passaic County. "Radon testing is easy and problems can be fixed."

The state provided funds for a limited amount of free test kits. Therefore, the county is targeting Ringwood and West Milford because of the "potential for higher levels of radon in these towns," said Passaic County Health Officer Irene Jessie Hunte in the press release.

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally when uranium breaks down in the soil and rock formations, according to the press release. Small amounts of uranium are found in nearly all soils and rocks. Radon gas moves up through the soil and finds its way into homes through cracks in the foundation and openings around sump pumps, pipes and drains.

In a telephone interview, Right-To-Know Coordinator Renee Allessio for the Passaic County Health Department said that although radon could be anywhere in Passaic County, Ringwood and West Milford could be at high risk because both municipalities are located in rocky, mountainous areas.

"Historically, you'll find radon because of rock formation, (but) there could be radon anywhere in Passaic County," she said.

Test kits will be available on a first come, first served basis by calling Allessio at 973-225-3651. Arrangements to pick up reserved test kits at the Ringwood and West Milford health departments will be made.

Why test for radon?

High radon levels are associated with a greater risk of lung cancer, according to the press release. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, resulting in approximately 21,000 deaths in the United States per year. It is recommended that homes be mitigated if they have radon concentrations of 4.0 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter) or more.

The concentration of radon gas is measured by the radioactivity it produces. It is expressed in picoCuries per liter of air, or "pCi/L". A Curie is a unit of radioactivity equivalent to 1 gram of radium, and the prefix "pico" means a trillionth.

There is truly no "safe" level of radon, since lung cancer can result from very low exposures to it, the press release states. However, the risk decreases as the radon concentration decreases. Homeowners with a test result of less than 4.0 pCi/L may want to discuss with mitigation companies whether the radon level can be brought down still further. In about half of the homes that have been mitigated in New Jersey, radon levels have been brought to less than 1.0 pCi/L.

Homeowners who tested in the past and found low levels of radon may wish to retest to determine if radon concentrations have changed. This could happen due to changes in air flow within the house from new construction or other renovations, or due to new construction nearby that may have caused changes in the local geology.

In addition to test kits provided by Passaic County Department of Health, the DEP's Radon Bureau at 800-648-0394 or www.njradon.org can provide a list of state-certified companies that provide testing services or do-it yourself test kits. The Radon Bureau can also offer companies that provide radon remediation services.

For more information on radon, contact Allessio at 973-225-3651.

E-mail: edmond@northjersey.com

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