January is Radon Awareness Month and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s Radon Control Program encourages people to consider that long-term exposure to indoor radon can be deadly.
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers, and second only to smoking for the entire population. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 20,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer every year.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring radioactive gas. Radon seeps into homes and buildings through cracks in the foundation or walls, and can accumulate over time in homes that are not properly vented. The underlying geology of much of Montana and the Northern Rockies makes homes in our region particularly susceptible.
The Surgeon General issued a health advisory for radon in 2005, stating that millions of homes have elevated radon levels. The advisory encourages everyone to test their home for radon every two years, and to retest after moving, making structural changes, or occupying a previously unused level of a house.
The EPA recommends that people take action if they find radon at levels in their homes greater than or equal to 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) of air.
The good news is that when elevated radon levels are found they can be significantly reduced, in most instances for an investment of less than $ 2,000. And new homes can be built using easy and inexpensive radon-resistant construction techniques. EPA encourages the building and real estate communities and all new home buyers to demand radon-resistant new construction.
Montana and EPA also urge people to test their homes for radon, and to install systems to vent radon from their homes if they find levels at or exceeding the 4 pCi/L action level. For more information on how to test your home for radon, visit: https://deq.mt.gov/Energy/radon or www.epa.gov/radon
For further information, contact the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s Radon Control Program at 800-546-0483.