Quick Home Test Can Measure Radon

Radon causes an estimated 5,000 to 20,000 deaths from lung cancer ayear. And it may be in your home, says Judy Wessel, formermanagement and equipment specialist for Ohio State UniversityExtension.

"People should be aware of what radon is and the healththreat that it poses," Wessel says. If you're buying a house, askfor a radon check the same as you would a termite inspection. Ifyou've never had your own home checked, buy a kit and follow theinstructions.

The odorless, invisible gas comes from decaying radium and uranium,both scattered throughout soil and rock. It usually escapes into theair and is diluted enough to be harmless. But when it seeps intohomes through basements or crawl spaces, it can become trapped andaccumulate to dangerous levels.

As radon breaks down, it emits alpha particles. When inhaled, theparticles can settle in the lungs and damage tissue. The mostpopular kind of test kit to measure radon is the activated charcoaldetector, Wessel says. Labels have directions. Just open thecanister and after a few days, send it to a lab for analysis.

If you find that your home has high radon levels, don't panic, Wesselsays. "Radon problems are fixable. Simple things like sealingcracks and holes in basement walls can reduce radon levels. Other,more specialized techniques can alleviate more significant problems."

For information, write to the Radiological Health Program, Ohio Dept.of Health, 1224 Kinnear Rd., P.O. Box 118, Columbus, OH 43212. Also,two free booklets, "A Citizen's Guide to Radon" and "Radon ReductionMethods" are available from the U.S. EPA Public Information Center,820 Quincy St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20011.

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