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Lung Cancer Caused by Radon Can Be Avoided With Simple Test

Using a simple, inexpensive test to detect radon gas seeping into homes could help prevent lung cancer and save thousands of lives, Acting Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said today.

"Homeowners can protect themselves and their families from this known carcinogen by using a test kit available for about $25 at hardware stores or by contacting a Pennsylvania certified radon laboratory," said Hanger. "If radon is present above a minimal recommended level, the home can be fixed for less than $1,500. It's never too late to reduce your risk of lung cancer. Test your home now and if a problem is found, get it fixed right away."

Governor Edward G. Rendell has proclaimed January as "Radon Action Month," and is urging all homeowners to test for radon.

Radon is the nation's second-leading cause of lung cancer and is responsible for an estimated 22,000 deaths every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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 can build up inside. The EPA recommends taking action to lower the level of radon in your home if a test finds the level is 4.0 picocuries per liter or higher.

An estimated 40 percent of the homes in Pennsylvania are believed to have elevated radon levels. While radon problems may be more common in some regions, any home may have a problem. The only way to know for certain is to test the air.

"The heating season is the best time to test because your home is closed and it is more likely radon will be at its peak concentrations," Hanger said. "Knowing whether radon is present and fixing your home -- if necessary -- will provide peace of mind to you and your family."

At the Governor's direction, Pennsylvania has taken the lead on radon education and outreach. More than 83 hospitals now participate in DEP's newborn radon program, which gives new parents information about radon along with a certificate for a free radon test kit.

Radon test kits are available at many home improvement, hardware, outdoor supply, lawn and garden, and department stores, as well as from Pennsylvania-certified radon laboratories. Most people can perform radon tests themselves. Completed test kits are sent to a Pennsylvania-certified lab where the sample is analyzed and the results sent to the homeowner.

Radon mitigation systems typically cost between $800 and $1,200. Most homeowners will choose to hire a radon mitigation professional to install the system.

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