KSU specialist urges testing for radon gas in residences

There’s a saying: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you?.”

Whether you agree or disagree, Bruce Snead, a Kansas State University Research and Extension residential energy specialist, is urging home and other property owners to test for radon, an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas produced by the decay of natural radioactive materials found in the soil.

Radon is a naturally occurring environmental hazard that seeps into homes and other buildings through joints or cracks in the foundation and has been found above recommended levels in as many as one in four homes in Kansas, Snead said.

Radon is known to be the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers. Testing is recommended, said Snead, who explained that testing need not be costly, or difficult.

“Many K-State Research and Extension offices offer low-cost test kits for $5, and detectors also can be purchased at home, discount-department and hardware stores,” he said. Following the directions provided with the kits and detectors is important so results reveal the potential for elevated concentrations in the lowest inhabited level of the home.

If the results are low, consider repeating the test periodically (perhaps every two or three years) or whenever there is a significant change in the home?s foundation, heating system or air tightness from weatherization efforts, Snead said.

If radon is found to be present above the recommended ceiling (4.0 pCiL/Pico Curies per liter), a confirmatory test should be conducted. If you want to know the radon concentration in other areas of your home, conduct the desired number of tests at the same time. When high results are confirmed, Snead recommends consulting a radon professional for a mitigation system installation.

In Kansas, beginning July 1, 2009, all residential real estate sales contracts have a recommendation for radon testing and disclosure of results. Mitigation is not, however, required at this time, Snead said.

More information about radon, including testing and mitigation, is available at most K-State Research and Extension offices, via the Kansas Radon Program at www.kansasradonprogram.org and by phone, toll-free: 1-800-693-5343.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Radon Program Services is housed in the Engineering Extension Department at K-State.

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