Radon Awareness

Radon, a cancer causing, colorless, odorless gas kills up to 20,000 people around the country each year.

Here in Wyoming all counties but two are in the high risk zone for radon levels, according to the environmental protection agency.

I looked into what this actually means and what we can do to protect ourselves as winter approaches.

As temperatures fall, radon levels rise, since cold air is denser than warm air.

Especially during winter, frozen ground traps radon in the soil around homes, pulling in higher concentrations of the gas.

While radon is present both outdoors and indoors, outdoor levels are normally low, as the gas disperses preventing it from reaching high levels.

"So there is radon everywhere in the air, but outside it's mixed with old air and it's very very low levels. The problem is when you get inside and it collects high levels of radon," said Oyvind Birkenes, CEO of Airthings, a leading radon detection company.

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter.

The average level in homes is one-point-three picocuries per liter.

A high radon level measures at 4 picocuries per liter or higher.

In Wyoming all but two counties, Platte and Weston, are in the red zone for having high radon levels, according to environmental protection agency experts.

"EPA says that if it's about four picocuries per liter you should really take actions and they say that the average radon level in Wyoming, inside, is actually about four picocuries per liter."

EPA experts say any radon exposure carries some kind of risk.

Putting this into perspective, while cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. radon exposure follows behind as the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths, according to Cancer.Org.

Smokers are even more susceptible to developing lung cancer when exposed to high radon levels.

Monitoring is important because of how much time we spend indoors.
Since homes and buildings are more insulated today than they were in the past we don't get as much fresh air as before.

"And especially in the winter time the house will suck air from the ground and get radon through your basement or ground floor and will seep into your house and be dangerous higher levels."

The only way to tell how much of the gas is in a given area is to test for it, by either hiring a professional or using at-home testing kits which can be found both online and at local home improvement stores.

Monitoring can be done using radon detecting technology...
Long term monitoring is suggested as levels vary from day to day and season to season.

For both adults and kids most exposure comes from being in home, offices, schools and other buildings.

I spoke to a local radon expert who said when getting homes tested for radon they test the smallest occupiable space in the home.

National Radon Action Month is in January, but as we approach colder months it’s important to get our homes tested.