HELENA – January is Radon Awareness Month, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality offers steps Montanans can take to test for and reduce radon gas found in homes.
Radon gas occurs naturally from the decay of uranium in rock and soils in Montana and can accumulate inside homes. The gas is radioactive and can damage lung tissue. Studies indicate breathing radon is a major cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, and a leading cause of cancer among non-smokers.
In Montana, the results of historic radon testing indicate radon gas is present in varying levels in homes throughout the state. Radon concentrations depend largely on the underlying geology of the area, home construction, and weather. Radon can build to unhealthy levels, especially during colder months when windows and doors are kept closed. The invisible, odorless gas can seep into homes from underground and can reach harmful levels if trapped indoors.
“Testing for radon is the only 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 for radon and found low levels, your home may still have high levels.” Children, because of their unique physical, biological, and social characteristics, are especially vulnerable radon exposure.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. The EPA identifies 4.0 pCi/L as the "action level" for radon.
"Radon is a problem that can be fixed, and we urge all Montanans to first test their homes with easy-to-use inexpensive kits," Podolinsky added.
Testing for or mitigating radon in Montana is not required by law. Short-term and long-term radon test kits are available online, in hardware stores and from some county health departments. Once the radon level in a home has been documented, the results can be discussed with a radon professional, particularly when levels are found at or above the action level. Before hiring a radon mitigation professional, consider contacting at least three professionals, obtain bids, check references and insurance, and hire the most qualified and affordable professional. Ventilating radon gas from under the basement floor or crawlspace is a common mitigation approach, costing as little as $1,000 to $2,000 to protect residents from this hazard.
For more information about radon, and a list of certified radon professionals, contact the DEQ Radon Control Program toll-free at 1-800-546-0483 or by visiting the website: http://deq.mt.gov/Energy/EnergizeMT/radon. County health departments are a good source for information as are EPA’s radon website, http://www.epa.gov/radon, and the National Radon Program at www.sosradon.org.