Have you tested your home for radon yet? The arrival of cold weather has driven most of us indoors for the season.  However, winterizing our houses and preparing for cold weather ahead can decrease proper ventilation, creating concerns with indoor air quality and making us more susceptible to the dangers of radon.  In fact, one in 15 homes is affected every year by radon.  For this reason, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state and local health departments recognize the month of January as National Radon Action Month. 

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell, taste or touch.    It is caused by a breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, which then rises in the atmosphere and becomes present in varying amounts.  Radon can enter a home through cracks and openings in the foundation.  While it is harmless outdoors, the concentration of this gas can build to unhealthy levels in buildings, especially in cold weather when structures are sealed up.  Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer.  Individuals who smoke and have radon in their homes are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.    

Radon is measured in units called picocuries per liter.  Although any exposure to radon is harmful, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that action be taken whenever a test results in a finding of four picocuries per liter or more.  This action may be simple and inexpensive, such as sealing cracks and holes in the foundation, increasing ventilation by opening windows, vents and doors and covering exposed earth in the basement sump or crawl space.  If the previous methods do not reduce the levels of radon, more expensive and complicated remedies may be necessary.  These remedies may include providing alternative air supplies for furnaces, fire places, clothes dryers and sub-slab ventilation.

Radon can be a problem in all types of homes, including old and new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes and homes both with and without basements.   Testing for radon is necessary to determine if there is any danger in the home.  The Central Connecticut Health District (CCHD) has free radon test kits available on a first-come, first-serve basis during the month of January.  Otherwise, CCHD has radon test kits available for $8.00 throughout the year.  The kit includes instructions, laboratory analysis and postage.  Results are sent directly to the person submitting the test for analysis.  The Health District also provides literature about radon, available at no cost. 

For more information about radon, please visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency online at www.epa.gov/radon.  Any further questions regarding radon can be directed to the Central Connecticut Health District, serving Berlin, Newington, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield, on our website at www.ccthd.org or by visiting our Facebook page.