We all dread the weeks of winter that follow the holiday season. But one positive is that the cold weather of January (especially this year) allows our closed, heated homes to be accurately tested for Radon. Hence, Radon Action Month in January makes perfect sense.
Radon is a constant by-product of the decaying of underground Uranium, which was trapped inside bedrock ages ago by the legendary Wisconsin Glacier (which is also credited with forming the rock formations of the Wisconsin Dells when the glacier briefly split).
Centuries later, our homes continue to act as a vacuum for the escaping Radon gas that results from the decaying process. How can we find out if our homes have this odorless, colorless gas? Your best bet is to use the simple $8.00 Radon testing kit that is available from the Will County Health Department.
Wendy Deutsch, a licensed environmental health practitioner with the Will County Health Department’s Environmental Health Division, reminds us that the prevalence of lung cancer caused by radon continues to be very strong. “It is still the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and the number two cause of lung cancer in smokers.”
The $8.00 kits offered by the health department are available for purchase at the Health Department building in Joliet (501 Ella Avenue, 8 AM to 4 PM M-F), the Eastern Branch Office in Monee (5601 W. Monee-Manhattan Road, 8 AM to 4 PM M-F), or the Northern Branch Office in Bolingbrook (323 Quadrangle Drive, 8 AM to 4 PM M-F).
As Deutsch points out, these kits are very easy to use. “You simply use the envelope in the kit to test your air, by placing it on a chair or hanging it from a hook or ceiling fan 20 inches-to-six feet above the floor. Keep it three feet from doors and windows to the outside, and away from drafts, heat, and areas of high humidity; such as right next to laundry, and in kitchens and bathrooms. You can mail the kit in after it has tested the air for 72 hours.”
Brenda Hamby, also a licensed Environmental Health practitioner with the Health Department’s Environmental Health Division, reminds everyone where the kit should be placed in your home. For example, residents sometimes test in crawl spaces, but that is not where you ‘live’ in your home. “You want to use the ‘lowest living level,’” she explained. “So if your basement is used for laundry, or a play area or home gym, you want to test there. If your basement is only for storage, then you want to test on your main floor.”
Once you have sealed the envelope and sent it to the lab (postage is included with the kit,) the results will then be mailed back to you. If you test above 4.0 pCi/L (pico-curies per liter of air), then a mitigation system is needed. “A licensed mitigation professional would install what is essentially a piping system,” Hamby explained. “It uses a fan to pull the Radon out from below the foundation, then sends it up into the air above the eve of the house, and out into the atmosphere where the radon concentration is much lower.”
If you end up having a high level of Radon and need to find a licensed mitigation professional, or if you simply would like more information about Radon, your best bet is to visit Radon.Illinois.Gov.
Radon testing can be done at any time. But January remains the best time due to its being right in the heart of winter. The Health Department has placed reminders about Radon Action Month on various electronic billboards around Will County.
Additional information about Radon can be found at www.epa.gov/radon.