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Keny-Guyer Wins Resounding Approval for Radon Testing in Schools

The House voted 54-4 on Wednesday on a bill to get all schools in Oregon to test for radon by 2021.

House Bill 2931 will start the process by ordering the Oregon Health Authority to share its public health advice with schools about the hazards regarding radon. Each school district will then have to develop a plan for testing for the deadly element, and do so by the beginning of 2021.

“Radon is an odorless and invisible gas that seeps up through rock,” said Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, the bill’s chief sponsor. “It’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer. … We want all schools to go through a testing process if they haven’t done so in the last 10 years.”

Radon is a naturally occurring gaseous element that leaks up from the ground in sporadic pockets across the state, from Scappoose to La Grande and east Portland to Salem. Radon inhalation kills 21,000 Americans each year. It is the easiest way to get lung cancer for non-smokers.

New Radon Numbers Highlight Portland-Area Health Risks

New estimates of radon risks across Oregon underscore the need for homeowners to test for the presence of the odorless, invisible radioactive gas, researchers say.

The update, released this week, suggests that one in every four houses in the Portland area accumulates radon above the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says should prompt fixes to keep the gas outdoors.

That's double the national average, said Scott Burns, a Portland State University geology professor who worked with five students to compile radon tests from homes and businesses statewide.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking, EPA estimates, and the leading cause among non-smokers.

Radon Gas: Do I Detect a Problem?

Radon Gas: Do I Detect a Problem?

This past March, Portland grocers found themselves in an unlikely scenario: There was a run on sea kelp. Locations like the New Seasons Market on Hawthorne were soon completely out, and a little sign promised that more would be ordered. Why had this happened? The answer was global. Portlanders were wondering if they would need the kelp—a natural source of iodine—to block the radioactive iodine spewing from the Fukushima reactors after the devastating earthquake and tsunamis hit Japan.

In the Nuclear Age, there is nothing like radioactivity to grab our attention. It is the ultimate hot topic. So could this be a good time to remind everyone of another threat —not from the sky—but from uranium decaying in the ground? Could this be the time to revisit the subject of radon gas?

Leading Cause Of Lung Cancer Found In Ore. Homes

Watch this news segment.

A $10 Test Can Determine If Your Home Has Dangerous Levels of Radon

PORTLAND, Ore.-- -- Say the words "lung cancer" and cigarettes and secondhand smoke jump to mind.

But Oregon public health officials want people to think of another word: radon.

The gas found in homes around the state is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, according to the American Lung Association.

The gas, which occurs naturally when uranium in soil and rocks breaks down, is colorless and odorless.

The only way to find out if dangerous levels of radon are in your home is to test for it.

“I’ve been reluctant to do it because I’m afraid my house is going to have radon and I’m going to have to fix it,” said Alix Land, who lives in northeast Portland. “And for long as I don’t know that it has it, then I don’t have to do anything, which I know is crazy, but that’s the case.”

Cancer diagnosis gives Portlander a mission to educate others on radon

Susan McCormick felt like a million bucks.

She was in Peru in August, "the trip of a lifetime" for her. The middle school social studies teacher, then 51, and her cousin had climbed Machu Picchu, high above sea level.

It was almost time to fly back to Portland to begin the new school year at Fowler Middle School in Tigard.

Two days before Susan left Peru, she developed a dry cough that didn't seem to want to go away. "My cousin and I had stayed in a variety of hostels in Peru where you could smell mildew and mold. I thought, 'A couple days of clean air and some Benadryl, and I'll be fine.' "

But after a few days back in Oregon, she still had a cough. "No fever or congestion, just a cough."

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