EPA: Radon remains an invisible danger in homes

Free tests to measure the gas are available to county residents

The federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) created its Map of Radon Zones in 1993 to help national, state and local organizations target their resources and implement radon-resistant building codes.

The document has been continually updated since then.

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The darkest, deep red zones in the nation are along the Northeast corridor from Washington D.C., to Boston, though Philadelphia and the western portions of Burlington, Gloucester and Camden counties.

The EPA estimates that radon is the number-one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers – and the second for other populations – responsible for some 21,000 lung cancer deaths nationally every year.

The invisible, odorless and tasteless gas shows no immediate health symptoms and comes from the breakdown of uranium and radium inside the Earth. Simple test kits can reveal the amount of radon in any building and those with high levels can be fixed with easy and affordable venting techniques, according to the EPA.

The Burlington County Health Department takes the threat very seriously, and is now distributing free radon test kits to county residents so they can check their homes for the radioactive gas. The kits are the result of a partnership between the county and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to raise awareness and safety issues, according to county spokesperson David Levinsky.

“Radon is an odorless and colorless gas that can pose a serious health risk,” said county health department Director Dr. Herb Conaway. ” … Testing the air in your home is a simple way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this potential hazard.”

Burlington County Commissioner Dan O’Connell, the liaison to the health department, explained that the kits can help reduce the radon risk in the county.

“A significant number of homes are likely to have levels above the acceptable limits,” he said. “So it’s important that we test as many places as possible to detect the danger.”

Radon is formed naturally and moves up through soil, enabling it to enter homes through cracks in foundations and openings around pumps, pipes and drains. In New Jersey, about 10% of radon tests equal or exceed the EPA’s action level of 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). The average national indoor level is 1.3 pCi/L, Levinsky noted.

Residents who use the test and register high levels of radon can contact the health department for advice on mitigation actions and information on certified radon mitigation professionals. The department’s radon section regulates radon measurement and mitigation businesses and professionals to ensure high-quality radon services.

“No matter where you live, test your home for radon: It’s easy and inexpensive,” the EPA advises on its website. “Fix your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher ivS. Consider fixing if your level is between 2 and 4 pCi/L.”

The free radon kits can be picked up at the health department office, 15 Pioneer Boulevard, Westampton. For information, call (609) 265-3739 or (800) 648-0394.

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