January is radon action awareness month

By Donna Krug, K-State Extension Agent
Donna Krug

What gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, but is cited as the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers? If you guessed radon you are absolutely right.  January is noted as Radon Action Awareness Month so it is the perfect time to share up-to-date information on this important topic.

Most likely you are spending more time in your home, during the pandemic. This could potentially result in more exposure to radon. So how does radon find its way into your living space and create this health hazard? The most common way is it can seep from the soil beneath the foundation through cracks or joints. Another factor, soil porosity, under and around the basement or foundation, also affects the radon levels in homes and public buildings. 

Surveys show that 6 percent of homes in the U.S. have average concentrations above the recommended maximum level. However, the Kansas statistics showed that one in four homes were high.

Detection of radon is relatively simple. We recommend purchasing a short term radon detection kit. We have these available for $6.50 at both of our Cottonwood District offices, (Great Bend and Hays). Radon tests may also be found at hardware stores and on the Internet, usually for $25 or less.

Testing is important, because it is the only way to tell how much of the gas is present. We advise people to test in the lowest level where they spend time, such as a bedroom, living or family room. Avoid testing in a kitchen or bathroom, since the higher humidity in those areas can alter the test results. The testing device needs to be at least 20 inches above the floor and be left in place for two to four days. The goal is to measure the potential for elevated concentrations that come from the soil beneath the homes’ foundation.

If the initial test result is 4 pico curies per liter of air or higher, a follow-up test is recommended. If you find that you need to contact a contractor to help mitigate radon, we have an up to date list of certified mitigation technicians and laboratories providing services in Kansas. Certification through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for radon professionals was required starting in July 2011.

In Kansas, since July 1, 2009, residential real estate contracts must contain a specific paragraph recommending radon testing in real estate transactions and disclosure of test results. There are, however, currently no laws requiring such tests or mitigation of high levels of radon. 

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly sums it up in the last statement of her proclamation of 2021 Radon Action Awareness Month when she says, “All Kansans should be aware of this potential threat to our health and act now to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer in the future.”

Consider testing your home soon. The cost of the test kit is a small price to pay for the peace of mind knowing the radon level in your home.

Donna Krug is the District Director and Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension, Cottonwood District – Great Bend Office. You may reach her at:(620)793-1910 or dkrug@ksu.edu.