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A Simple Radon Test Can Help Prevent Lung Cancer -- EPA Urges Builders to Use Radon-resistant Techniques for New Construction

Release Date: 01/09/2007
Contact Information: Donna Heron (215) 814-5113

PHILADELPHIA -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office are stepping up the call to action to get homes tested for radon, a cancer-causing radioactive gas that claims nearly 20,000 lives each year. Breathing indoor air containing radon can damage lung tissue leading to cancer, making it the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and the leading cause among nonsmokers.


    Radon comes from the surrounding soil and enters homes through foundation cracks, drains, and openings. It is an odorless, colorless, and invisible gas that can reach harmful levels if trapped indoors. Recent consumer research indicates that up to 80 percent of homes across America still need to be tested for radon. A simple home test is the only way to detect high radon levels and the test can be performed for under $25.

    “Many people are not aware that breathing radon causes lung cancer, but the science is strong. That’s why this new media campaign features an advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General,” said EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh. “We know that radon-related deaths can be prevented; no one has to live in a home with high radon levels because virtually any home with a radon problem can be fixed. Our hope is that once people understand this health risk, they will test their homes for radon and fix any problems they find.”

    EPA is launching a campaign to inform people about radon and is working with organizations across the country to educate the public on how to protect themselves from radon exposure in their homes. Local government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools, health care providers, radon professionals, and other community groups will work together to host events and activities to increase awareness about radon, promote testing and mitigation, and advance the use of radon-resistant new construction -- an initiative that EPA believes will mitigate the infiltration of radon gas and the high incidents of radon-related illnesses is radon-resistant new construction practices.

    An initiative that EPA believes will mitigate the infiltration of radon gas and the high incidents of radon-related illnesses is radon-resistant new construction practices. Building with radon-resistant construction techniques makes homes safer from radon infiltration. If high radon levels arefound at a construction site, the techniques allow for easy and inexpensive installation of mitigation systems, such as fans, for increased radon reduction.

    Techniques may vary for different foundations and site requirements, but the basic elements include gas permeable layers, plastic sheeting; sealing and caulking, vent pipes, and junction boxes. It is more cost-effective to include radon-resistant techniques while building a home, rather than installing them in an existing home. Materials and labor costs for radon-resistant techniques vs. retrofitting an existing home is $350 to $500 vs. $800 to $2,500 (a 128 percent to 400 percent savings).

    These techniques are consistent with state-of-the-art energy-efficient construction.
    Based on the most recent home builder survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, 5.8 percent of approximately 1,124,000 single-family detached homes built during 2001 incorporated radon-resistant features, which translates into about 65,000 homes nation-wide.

    “EPA’s mid-Atlantic region is proud to support this ambitious national campaign to reduce lung cancer deaths from radon,” said Donald S. Welsh. “Many families in our region are being exposed to deadly radon gas in their homes. We hope that once people see the ads and learn more about the health risk during National Radon Action Month, they will test their homes and correct any problems in existing homes, and consider radon-resistant techniques during new construction.”

    The public can get more information on how to obtain test kits and how to find qualified professionals to fix a radon problem by contacting the radon program in their state, available at www.epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html or by visiting the National Safety Council Web site at www.nsc.org/issues/radon.

    For more information about radon, visit EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/radon or contact the radon program in each state, available at www.epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html. The public can also call the National Safety Council’s Radon Hotlines: 1-800-SOS-RADON (24 hour recording) or 1-800-55-RADON (to speak with a specialist), or 1-866-528-3187 (for Spanish speakers).
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