By Susan Howe
A silent killer may be lurking in your home. The killer is radon, a radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless, that comes from the ground and accumulates in homes and buildings.
We know statistics can be boring, but these statistics are too deadly to ignore. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 21,000 Americans die each year from radon-induced lung cancer. When compared to other common causes of death, EPA statistics indicate that radon kills more people each year than secondhand smoke, drunk driving, falls in the home, drowning or house fires.
Radon may be in your home, as it is a prevalent problem in Nevada. Statewide test results show that one in four homes have radon levels at or above the EPA Action Level of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/l). Homes that test below 4 pCi/l aren’t 100 percent safe from the health risk either, because according to experts, living in a home with an average radon level of 4 pCi/l poses a similar risk of developing lung cancer to smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day.
In Washoe County, 21 percent of the homes tested have radon levels at or above 4 pCi/l; Carson City has 38.6 percent, Douglas County, 39.7 percent, and Lyon County, 28.8 percent.
This deadly gas gets into homes because the lower internal pressure in our homes, especially during the winter heating months, cause houses to suck radon out of the ground into our homes. Radon can then accumulate to dangerous levels.
The only way to know if your home has elevated levels of radon is to test. Testing is easy, and once detected, there are fairly easy, inexpensive ways to reduce the radon exposure to safer levels, thereby reducing the risk of lung cancer caused by radon.
January is National Radon Action Month, and to better help communities comprehend the dangers of radon, the Nevada Radon Education Program will offer presentations. Free test kits will be available at the presentations.
Presentations in Washoe, Carson City and Douglas counties are:
- Jan. 8 – Northwest Reno Library, 2325 Robb Drive, Reno, at 5 p.m.
- Jan. 9 – Sierra View Library, 4001 S. Virginia St., Reno, at 3:30 p.m.
- Jan. 11 – North Valleys Library, 1075 N. Hills Blvd. #340, Reno, at 11 a.m.
- Jan. 22 – South Valleys Library, 15650A Wedge Parkway, Reno, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 27 – Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 128 Market St., Stateline, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 28 – UC Davis/Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) at Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, 291 Country Club Drive, Incline Village, at 6 p.m. (reception at 5:30 p.m.)
- Jan. 29 – CVIC Hall, 1604 Esmeralda Ave., Minden, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 30 – Carson City Sheriff’s Office, 911 E. Musser St., Carson City, at 6 p.m.
For a complete schedule of presentations, go to www.RadonNV.com.
Free radon test kits are available now through Feb. 28 at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and partner offices statewide. You can’t beat free, so Nevadans are encouraged to take advantage of this offer to test their homes for this dangerous gas. In Reno, visit Cooperative Extension at 4955 Energy Way; in Carson City, 2621 Northgate Lane, Suite 15, and in Gardnerville, 1329 Waterloo Lane. For other locations or more information, go to www.RadonNV.com, or call the Radon Hotline at 888- RADON10 (888-723-6610).