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New Jersey homes

Greenspace: Too many people still not testing for radon in homes

Radon wasn't always a household word - and for some, it still isn't, although it should be.

Better not to wind up like Stanley and Diane Watras.

In 1984, before anyone knew that the radioactive gas could make its way into homes, and that parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey are radon hot spots, Watras set off radiation alarms when he reported for work at the Limerick nuclear power plant, then under construction.

Subsequent investigation focused on his home in Boyertown, Berks County, where technicians found the highest radon levels they had yet seen in the United States - about 675 times the maximum level permitted in a uranium mine.

In a way, he was lucky. He was alerted to a problem he hadn't known he had.

Officials began testing more homes, and household radon testing became a national campaign that continues to this day.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that forms during the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soils and rocks.