SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is encouraging people to test their homes for radon, a radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer, during the month of November. Governor Rod R. Blagojevich has proclaimed November Lung Cancer Awareness Month in Illinois, calling attention to the fact that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer overall and the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers.
“During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we’re encouraging everyone to test their homes for radon, because testing is the only way to find out if your home has elevated levels of this cancer-causing radioactive gas,” said IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III. “It really doesn’t matter where you live in Illinois or what type of home you live in, because we’ve seen excessive radon in every county in Illinois, and in every type of home – old, new, with basements, with a crawlspace or on a slab.”
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. It can enter homes and buildings through small cracks in the foundation, sump pumps or soil in crawlspaces. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has determined that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation, but the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The National Academy of Sciences and the Surgeon General estimate that 21,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur annually in the United States, as many as 1,100 of those in Illinois.
To increase awareness of the need to test homes for radon, Gov. Blagojevich this summer signed into law the Illinois Radon Awareness Act. Beginning January 1, 2008, anyone buying a home, condominium or other residential property in Illinois must be provided with information about indoor radon exposure and the fact that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause overall. IEMA is preparing an informational brochure on radon that can be used during real estate transactions to meet this new requirement.
To get a better picture of radon in Illinois, IEMA is tracking results from home tests. In September 2006, IEMA released a report showing that nearly half of 22,000 Illinois homes tested by professional radon measurement contractors had potentially unsafe levels of radon. Test results from those homes showed radon levels at or above the 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) action level recommended by the USEPA. The study also found 80 counties where few, if any, professional tests for the naturally occurring radioactive gas were conducted during the two-year study period.
IEMA is working to increase the number of home radon tests conducted throughout the state, and since early 2006 has made free radon test kits available to Illinois residents. To date, more than 27,000 test kits have been distributed. Results from those tests are being recorded and analyzed for an updated report on radon occurrence throughout the state.
IEMA encourages anyone who discovers their home has elevated levels of radon to contact a licensed radon mitigation professional to correct the problem. As with radon measurement professionals, mitigation experts in Illinois are licensed by IEMA to ensure they have the proper equipment, specialized training and technical skills to do the job right and reduce radon in the home to safe levels. Depending on the home, radon mitigation can cost between $800-1,200.
“If you find your home has high radon levels, it’s a relatively easy problem to fix,” Velasquez said. “There are more than 70 contractors licensed by IEMA to install radon reduction systems in Illinois homes. In just the past two years, these contractors have helped more than 10,000 homeowners reduce the radon health hazard in their homes.”
More information about radon, including results from the statewide study, lists of licensed radon measurement and mitigation professionals and requests for free home test kits are available on the IEMA website at www.radon.illinois.gov. Radon information and free home test kits are also available through the radon hotline at 1-800-325-1245.