The Humboldt County Board of Commissioners recently approved a proclamation naming January 2018 National Radon Action Month, and for good reason. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and one of the leading causes of lung cancer over all.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 21,000 people in the US die each year from lung cancer caused by indoor radon exposure.
According to the EPA’s online guide, Radon is an odorless, flavorless, colorless gas that results from “the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breath.” Radon builds up in the home over time, entering the home through cracks. It builds up first in the lowest portions of the home, such as crawl spaces and basements.
Radon can also build up in water, particularly in private wells and public water supplies that use groundwater. Alicia Heiser, Winnemucca City Manager and Engineer, said as far as she could find, the city does not test regularly for radon in the municipal water supply and the state does not currently require it.
A map produced by the University of Nevada cooperative extension shows over half of Humboldt County as having potentially high levels of radon. No data was available for the western part of the county.
The average level of radon in a home is 1.3 picocuries per liter of air. Living in a home with a radon level of four picocuries per liter of air or higher poses a similar risk of developing lung cancer as smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day.
Any home may have elevated levels of radon, even if neighboring homes do not.
There are many types of test kits for radon in the home. Short term kits stay in the house for a number of days and provide a snapshot of radon levels. Long term kits take more than 90 days, but offer a better idea of a home’s year-round radon levels. Radon levels can fluctuate throughout the year for various reasons.
The cooperative extension office at 1085 Fairgrounds Road in Winnemucca provides radon test kits for free in January and February. These kits cost $10 the rest of the year. The cooperative extension asks that test kits be picked up at the cooperative extension office. Ordering a test kit through the mail will cost at least $4 extra. Call\ 775-623-6304 for more information.