Helena -- January is Radon Awareness Month, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) offers steps Montanans can take to test for and address radon gas.
Radon occurs naturally from the decay of uranium and radium in many Montana soils and can accumulate inside homes. Studies indicate elevated levels of the gas are a major cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, and the leading cause among non-smokers.
In Montana, historic radon testing indicates radon gas is present in varying levels in homes throughout the state. Radon concentrations depend largely on the underlying geology of the area. DEQ is urging Montanans to protect their health by first testing their homes for radon.
“Testing for radon is the best way to know if people in your home may be at risk from this cancer-causing gas,” said John Podolinsky of DEQ’s Radon Control Program. “Even if your neighbors have tested low levels, your home may still have problematic high levels.”
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies 4.0 pCi/L as the "action level" for radon. Although easy and inexpensive to perform, fewer than 80 percent of American homes have been tested for radon. "Radon is a problem that can be easily fixed, and DEQ urges all Montanans to first test their homes with easy-to-use inexpensive kits," Podolinsky added.
Radon can build to unhealthy levels, especially during colder months when windows and doors are kept closed. The invisible, odorless radioactive gas can seep into homes from underground and can reach harmful levels if trapped indoors. Ventilating radon gas from under the basement floor or crawlspace is a common mitigation approach and can cost as little as $1,000 to $2,000 to address.
Low-cost radon test kits are available on-line, at hardware stores, and some county health departments. Once the radon level in a home is determined, the results can be discussed with a radon mitigation contractor, particularly when levels test above 4.0 pCi/L.
For more information about radon, contact the Radon Control Program toll-free at 1-800-546-0483 or by visiting the web site: http://www.deq.mt.gov County health departments are a good source for local information, or visit EPA’s radon website: http://www.epa.gov/radon/