DEP Secretary Urges Homeowners to Test for Radon

FRANKLIN PARK – Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty urged all Pennsylvania homeowners to test their homes for the presence of radon gas, which is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and is responsible for an estimated 22,000 deaths every year.

“Lung cancer from radon is preventable, but the only way to know the radon level in your home, and to know if you need to take action to lower that level, is to perform this simple and inexpensive test,” McGinty said. “Matt and Kelly Mowry did the right thing to protect their health and that of their son, and I urge all Pennsylvanians to follow their example.”

McGinty made her comments at the Mowry’s home in the Pittsburgh suburb of Franklin Park. The Mowrys tested their home for radon last February following the birth of their son, Jonathan, and found the level to be above that recommended by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Mowrys then had a radon mitigation system installed in their home and reduced the level of radon to well below the EPA’s recommended action level.

“It’s best to conduct the test during the colder months when your home is closed, and radon is most likely to be trapped and build to unhealthy levels,“ McGinty said. “You will gain peace of mind that comes from knowing you and your family are not being exposed to a known killer.”

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that occurs naturally through the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks. It seeps into homes through cracks in basements and foundations, and high levels of radon have been found in homes throughout Pennsylvania. The EPA recommends taking action to lower the level of radon in your home if the level is 4.0 pico Curies/liter (pC/l) or higher. The Mowry’s home showed a radon level of 17.8 pC/l in February of 2006. Following installation of a mitigation system, the home showed a level of 0.9 pC/l.

Under the direction of Governor Rendell, the commonwealth has taken the lead on radon education and outreach, and launched a successful effort last year to increase the number of hospitals participating in DEP’s newborn radon program, which gives new parents information about radon along with a certificate for a free radon test kit. The initiative has increased hospital participation in the past year from just over 50 hospitals to more than 70. The Mowrys received their free test kit from the newborn radon program at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh. Radon test kits cost about $25 and are available at many home improvement, hardware, outdoor supply, lawn and garden and department stores. Most people can do radon tests themselves. After performing the test, the information is sent to a lab where the sample is analyzed and the results sent to the homeowner.

Radon mitigation systems typically cost between $800 and $1,200 and most homeowners will want to hire a radon mitigation professional to install the system. In Pennsylvania, anyone who tests or performs mitigation work for radon on a home other than the one in which they live must be certified by DEP. A list of certified radon contractors is available on DEP’s Web site, or by calling 800-23 RADON.

Homeowners are not required to test for radon. However, if a home has been tested, the results of that test must be disclosed when the home is sold. More information about radon is available at DEP’s Web site, or by calling the radon hotline listed above.

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