The Ottumwa Courier

January 2, 2014

Put radon on your radar

Courier staff writer

---- — Did you know that each year radon claims the lives of approximately 20,000 Americans? It’s true, and most of them could have been avoided.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated January as National Radon Action Month to spread awareness of the dangerous gas and show how to keep it out of homes.

Radon is a naturally occurring chemical element that gets released during the breakdown of uranium in soil. Through cracks in the foundation of buildings, it creeps into rooms without people even knowing since it is odorless, colorless and tasteless. Then it can create big problems, as it is the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers for those who are exposed to it long enough.

All of the health problems radon creates can be avoided, though, according to Jody Gates, Ottumwa Health and Inspections Department director, by simply reducing the amount of radon inside a building.

“There are some ways to reduce it. If you are doing it after the home is built, a vent pipe put under the basement floor and a fan exhausting it out through the roof is the most common way,” she said.

There’s also a relatively easy way to detect if there are dangerous amounts of radon in your building. Special test kits are available at most retail stores, and even the Ottumwa Health Department has the kits available for anyone who should need one. At the low cost of $6, it is a great way to make sure your home or office is safe for a low price.

The problem with the high amounts of radon in some homes and buildings is that there aren’t building requirements specifically for radon prevention.

“Here locally, there aren’t any requirements to build housing that is radon resistant,” Gates said. “You are encouraged to, but it isn’t required.”

Since radon prevention doesn’t have to be taken into account when constructing a home or office, it is easy to push it aside and not worry about it, which could lead to problems in the future. EPA established National Radon Action Month to help make home and business owners aware of the dangers radon possesses, so they know how to take the proper precautions.

“We’re making information available to people, and we keep the test kits available year round,” Gates said. “If people are considering wanting to put in a radon mitigation system, and if they aren’t sure what they’re doing, then contact a contractor or the city building inspectors.

The goal is to reduce the amount of radon people are exposed to.”

With all of the easy measures to keep your family and business safe from radon, everyone is encouraged to look into whether or not they are safe from this deadly gas and to use a radon testing kit to be absolutely sure.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman’s Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh