ADPH offering free radon test kits to cut down on elemental gas exposure deaths
An Alabama health agency is working to cut down on one of the leading causes of lung cancer in the country. Radon gas is emitted by decaying Uranium found in trace amounts in soil and groundwater. The gas cannot be seen or smelled.
According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, radon is only behind smoking in terms of lung cancer deaths. The agency says the gas is responsible for nearly 21,000 lung cancer related deaths each year. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has offered free radon home test kits to residents for decades in an effort to reduce this number.
ADPH advises radon is harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air, but it can increase the risk of lung cancer when it is trapped in buildings. Health experts say anyone can get lung cancer from breathing in high levels of radon over time. Symptoms of dangerous radon exposure include persistent coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain.
“Radon gets into homes and buildings through small cracks or crevices in the foundation,” said State Radon Contact Nick Swindall. “We really want our communities that have never tested their home to see how much radon is in their home because radon is everywhere.”
According to the department, 15 Alabama counties have been identified as having the highest potential for elevated radon levels. They are Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Morgan, Shelby and Talladega. The state health agency says the only way to tell if a home has a radon problem is to check with a radon testing kit.
Test kits can be ordered from the ADPH website, though they are in a limited supply. The test uses activated charcoal to measure the radiation in homes. Swindall says they need to be placed in the lowest level of the home, away from humid areas such as the bathroom or the kitchen, for two to four days.
“After you've sent your test off to the lab, you can then make a decision about what to do next,” he explained. “If your result is less than four picocuries per liter, then you're good. If the test is 4.0 or greater, the EPA recommends you look at having your home mitigated, which is to remove that excess radon gas from your home.”
Swindall added that ADPH suggests residents go to a professional certified in radon mitigation, although there is no law in Alabama prohibiting residents from mitigating their home.
“One of the things that we request, is that when you receive one of these test kits, you use it,” said Swindall. “With a 20% return rate, it makes the program much more expensive. There's a lot of people [who] are wanting tests, so if you're not going to use your test, please give it to somebody else.”