The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked, making radon the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. “But because you can’t see or smell radon,” says Allentown Health Bureau director Vicky Kistler, “people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer in their homes.” That’s why the Allentown Health Bureau in cooperation with the American Lung Association and the PA Department of Environmental Protection is offering free radon test kits to Lehigh Valley residents that have never completed a prior radon test in their home.
To obtain a free radon test kit visit an Allentown Health Bureau office, or to save time, print and complete the radon test kit coupon found on the city’s website www.allentownpa.gov then bring it to one of the Health Bureau’s locations: City Hall at 435 Hamilton St., or Alliance Hall, 245 N 6th St., Allentown. Supplies are limited, and are on a first come, first served basis. Please call ahead at 610-437-7759 to be sure there are test kits available.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released in rock, soil and water from the natural decay of uranium. While levels in outdoor air pose a relatively low threat to human health, radon can accumulate to dangerous levels inside buildings. You can’t see, smell, or taste it, but an elevated radon level in your home may be affecting the health of your family. And if you are a smoker, your risk is even greater.
One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Millions of Americans are unknowingly exposed to this dangerous gas. By taking simple steps to test your home for radon and fix if necessary, this health hazard can be avoided. But here in Pennsylvania, about 40% of homes have radon present at elevated levels, according to the PA Department of Environmental Protection. The heating season is the best time to test because your home is closed and radon levels will likely be at their highest concentration. The EPA recommends that you test your home every two years or whenever you change your living patterns in your home.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), a measurement of radioactivity. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that homes with radon levels at 4 pCi/L or higher should be fixed to reduce radon levels. The average indoor air concentration in Pennsylvania basements is 7.1 pCi/l and is 3.6 pCi/L on the first floor. In Allentown area zip codes, indoor radon levels range from 0.1 pCi/L to well over 200 pCi/L. But just because your neighbor’s house has a low radon level does not mean that your house will also be low.
For more information, call the Allentown Health Bureau at 610-437-7759. You can also visit EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/radon or PA DEP’s website at http://www.dep.state.pa.us/brp/Radon_Division/Radon_Homepage.htm.