Each year, approximately 25,000 U.S. residents die of lung cancer due to radon exposure in their homes. January brings awareness to this issue through National Radon Action Month. But even though the month is coming to a close, health officials continue to urge homeowners to monitor radon levels.
Radon is an invisible, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that is produced from the radioactive decomposition of radium and uranium. It seeps into buildings through cracks and other openings in the foundation, or through pipes or the water supply, and it can build up, especially during winter months when the heating system is on and the windows and doors are closed.
According to the American Lung Association, people with private wells — like most of those who live in Weston — are at greater risk of radon exposure than those who are served by a community water supply.
Though radon can be deadly, exposure to it does not cause any symptoms. Therefore, people may not know if they have been exposed to it.
But the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that exposure to elevated levels of radon in indoor air is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmokers.
Data shows compelling evidence of an association between lung cancer and prolonged residential radon exposure. The EPA estimates that approximately 25,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States can be attributed to radon in indoor air.
Health officials say this is why it is important for residents to get a radon detector, which can then be sent to a lab after a certain number of days for analysis.
Residents may also contact a professional to perform a radon test. A list of qualified testers, and more information on radon and radon testing, may be found online at ct.gov/dph/radon.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) has strict guidelines regarding radon testing for public schools.
Administrators are required to hire only qualified testing professionals, listed on the state DPH radon program website.
Schools are required to test radon levels at least once every five years; tests must be done between Nov. 1 and March 31.
Dan Clarke, director of facilities for the Weston School District, said Weston school buildings were last tested five years ago and the results were “within safe levels.”
He said the district is just beginning the process to test the schools again now, and he will share the results once they are received.
For homeowners, the Westport Weston Health District (WWHD) has a limited number of free radon testing kits available. For more information, call Monica Wheeler, the director of community nursing at WWHD, at 203-227-9571, ext. 241.
The American Lung Association also offers radon testing kits for $12. Order online at LungNE.org/products or call 800-LUNG-USA.