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January is Radon Action Month: citizens urged to test homes

ALBANY– State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H, reminds New Yorkers about the importance of testing their homes for radon. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. annually. Approximately 37 percent of tested basements in New York State have elevated radon levels.

"Radon cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, which makes testing for this dangerous gas essential," said Commissioner Shah. "Testing is simple and inexpensive, and New Yorkers should take every precaution to avoid exposure."

Radon gas results from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It occurs naturally in the earth, but can become a problem when it builds up indoors. It enters a home through cracks and openings in the foundation floor and walls, and through openings around sump pumps.

Homeowners can test their homes at any time; however, it is best to do so during the heating season when homes typically let in less outdoor air. Every home in New York State should be tested and tested again after remodeling, weatherizing or following radon mitigation. The New York State Department of Health's (DOH) Radon Program offers low-cost radon test kits for New York residents.

If a test shows elevated levels of radon, simple, inexpensive techniques may be all that is needed to reduce radon levels. Contractors who have met radon-mitigation requirements and can effectively address homes with radon problem are located throughout the state. Additionally, for those planning to build a new home, consider the efficient and cost-effective radon-resistant new construction techniques, which are outlined in DOH's recently published brochure "Build a Green Home! Radon Resistant New Construction." The brochure is available online at www.health.ny.gov/environmental/radiological/radon/rrnc/general.htm

As part of Radon Action Month, DOH's annual statewide poster contest for students ages 9-14 highlights the risks posed by exposure to indoor radon. Student posters are on display at the Empire State Plaza Concourse in Albany from January 13-23.

To learn more about radon, radon testing, visit: www.health.ny.gov/environmental/radiological/radon/radon.htm