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OHA: It's time to check your home for radon

Radon comes up from the ground and is drawn into buildings, where it can build up to dangerous levels.

COURTESY CDC - The Oregon Health Authority is reminding Oregonians to test their homes for radon, an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that occurs naturally. Radon comes up from the ground and is drawn into buildings, where it can build up to dangerous levels.

"Every homeowner should test their home for radon every two to five years," says Curtis Cude, Radon Awareness Program manager at the Oregon Health Authority. "The best time to test is during the heating season, when the windows and doors are closed up tight."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is estimated to be responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. It's the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoking, and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

According to the Health Authority, test kits are priced between $15 and $25 and can be found in most hardware stores. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of common home repairs, such as painting or having a new water heater installed.

While the Health Authority suggests all homes be checked, some areas of Oregon are at a particularly high risk for exposure due to underlying geology. The Health Authority offers map tools Oregonians can use to see whether their community is at higher risk than others.

The Oregon Radon Awareness Program collects random test data from test kit manufacturers in an effort to understand which areas of the state have the potential for high radon levels and to identify areas where educational outreach efforts need to be focused. The program offers a free radon test kit to residents whose homes are in ZIP codes with fewer than 20 radon test results.

Residents can send an email to radon.program@dhsoha.state.or.us to receive instructions on how to get a free test kit.