Greenwich Department of Health offers discounted radon-in-air tests

The month of January has been designated as Radon Action Month by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). For the twelfth consecutive year, the Greenwich Department of Health has obtained grant funds from the State to support the Laboratory radon testing program and provide reduced cost radon-in-air tests to residents. Starting January 4, 2016, and continuing through February, radon-in-air tests will be offered at a reduced fee of $30 (compared with the Department’s regular fee of $60 per test).

Radon is present at elevated levels in about one of every five Connecticut homes. Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless, radioactive gas that is normally harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air, but can reach harmful levels when it enters and gets trapped in buildings, particularly in the winter months when homes and other buildings are closed up. Radon comes from rocks and soils in the ground and can enter a home through small cracks and other openings in the foundation. People can develop lung cancer if they are exposed to radon gas at elevated levels for long periods of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends radon abatement measures to be undertaken if indoor radon levels exceed 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Over the past 10 years of the radon program, half of the homes in Greenwich that have been tested have been found to have a radon level above the EPA action limit of 4.0 pCi/L.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking, and it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is estimated to be responsible for more than 21,000 deaths from lung cancer in the US each year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. In response to this important public health issue, the Greenwich Department of Health Laboratory, through the support of a State grant, will offer a reduced cost radon-in-air test to Greenwich residents until the end of February. “We are pleased to offer the special radon testing program to Greenwich residents for the twelfth year. We continue to offer this program because radon is a serious public health hazard. Therefore, all residents are encouraged to test their homes for radon this winter. Testing homes for elevated levels of radon is simple and inexpensive even when grant funding to support testing is no longer available,” stated Director of Health Caroline Calderone Baisley.

The only way to find out if a home has radon is to test for it. All residents are encouraged to test their homes for radon, particularly in rooms where people spend a lot of their time, including the basement. Even if a home has been tested previously, retesting should be considered, especially if any construction work has recently been done which may have disturbed the soil around the home or created cracks in the foundation which could provide an entry point for radon. Radon testing kits may be obtained from the Department’s Laboratory located on the ground floor of Town Hall during laboratory hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Once the test kit is received, testing should be begun in the home the same day and the kit returned to the lab four days later.

Tests to analyze radon will be conducted by the Laboratory Monday through Friday, with results being reported by mail. All testing results over 4 pCi/L are considered elevated according to the Environmental Protection Agency and should be considered for remediation.

Doug Serafin, Director of the Division of Environmental Services Laboratory states that, “Because you can’t see or smell radon, people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer in their homes. Radon, if discovered, can be remediated by qualified contractors for a cost similar to many other home repairs. A number of residents who learned that their homes were above the EPA action limit have taken advantage of this program and successfully installed mitigation systems to lower the amount of radon exposure.”

For more information on radon, radon testing and radon mitigation, call the Greenwich Department of Health Laboratory at 203-622-7843.

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