January is National Radon Action month. During this time, the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center is encouraging residents to check the radon levels of their homes or apartments.
"The best time to check for radon is during cold weather when windows and doors remain closed," said Irene Pierce, the Health Department's Executive Director. "Radon increases your risk of lung cancer, so it is important to check the level in your home."
Short-term test kits are available through the Health Department for $10.00. The cost includes return postage, laboratory analysis and interpretation by Health Department staff. Test kits are also available from area hardware and building supply stores.
A new law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, to help people who rent apartments, condominiums or houses access information about radon levels in their homes.Public Act 97-0021, which was approved by the Illinois General Assembly last spring and signed by Gov. Quinn on June 28, 2011, requires owners of rental units to inform renters in writing before a lease is signed if the rental space has been tested for radon and that a radon hazard may exist. If the rental unit hasn't been tested, a renter can conduct a do-it-yourself radon test or ask the owner to test by hiring a licensed radon contractor. If a renter conducts a radon test in the rental unit and results show high radon levels, the renter should inform the building owner in writing. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends that all rental units below the third floor be tested for radon.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air. The Environmental Protection Agency has established 4 picocuries per liter of air as an "action level" at which consideration should be given to reducing in-door radon levels. The only way to determine radon levels in a home or apartment is to test in the lowest living area.
Studies show that radon occurs in every county in Illinois. A recent study found that 20 percent of the homes that were tested in Lake County had in-door radon levels of 4 picocuries per liter of air or greater.
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and claims the lives of about 20,000 Americans each year. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Surgeon General urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools, and other buildings for radon. Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk, and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure.
Radon, an odorless and colorless gas naturally found in rock and soil, seeps into homes from the soil through cracks in the basement floor and foundation, crawl spaces, poorly sealed sump pumps, floor drains, porous cinder block walls and other foundation floor and wall penetrations. Although radon gas is measurable everywhere, the highest readings are normally found in the basement and first floor levels of homes and apartments.
"If radon is found in your home, it is important to fix the areas where the gas is seeping in," said Pierce.
National Radon Action Month is sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency. For additional information, contact the Health Department's Environmental Services program at: (847) 377-8030.