January is National Radon Gas Awareness Month, furthering awareness of radon, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas found in many homes which is the cause of over 20,000 annual deaths in the United States, according to the World Health Organization.

According to World Health Organization statistics, in 2010, radon caused more deaths than drunk driving, fires and carbon monoxide.

Produced by the breakdown of uranium in rock, soil and water, radon can seep through buildings through cracks and other openings. The gas then attaches to dust particles in the air, which can be inhaled. Inhalation of the substance can lead to the development of lung cancer.

The U.S. Surgeon General says that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., behind smoking.

“Radon has been a major concern over the last 20 years,” Bonnie Smith, spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency told the AFRO. “The most important thing for families and homeowners to do is to test.”

The EPA urges that any home, regardless of age or location, should be tested for radon. Smith says that tests are inexpensive and fairly easy to set up.

“Simple radon tests are available at building supply stores, hardware stores and general merchandise stores,” she said. “Most kits cost $15 or $20, and the best part about the kits is that a basic one doesn’t take longer than 10 minutes to set up.”

Smith added that installation requires just a simple read of the kit’s instructions.

“When the kit is complete, you mail it to the lab for analysis,” she said. “Testing is the only way a family can know if they’re at risk.”

If radon levels in a home are high, there are multiple ways for removal, including inexpensive “do-it-yourself” methods. Families can also hire contractors for radon tests and removal if they are unable to do it themselves.

In Maryland, homeowners in every county and Baltimore City have reported levels of radon, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. Individuals with radon reports and inquiries should contact the radon hotline at 1-800-767-7236.

For more information on radon, visit www.epa.gov.

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor