January is Radon Awareness Month

The West Central Radon Information Center, which serves Barron, Dunn, Pierce, St. Croix & Sawyer Counties, is involved in a statewide campaign to urge residents to take action during this year’s National Radon Action Month by testing their homes for radon.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is radioactive and can cause lung cancer. Radon can leak into your home and is quite common in Wisconsin. Radon is naturally occurring from the ground, and although you cannot see it or smell it, it can be present in your home.

Testing for radon is common when buying or selling a home, but many do not think about it other than those times.

Radon is a substantial health risk in many Wisconsin homes. There is a risk of developing cancer from long-term exposure to radon in air and water. If you get your drinking water from a private well, January is the time to evaluate whether radon levels are high at your home.

Radon; colorless, odorless and tasteless can be found in both air and water.

It is found with uranium in small amounts in most rock, soil and groundwater and is

created when uranium decays to radium which then decays to radon.

It is measured in water and air in units of picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The EPA recommended standard for radon in air is 4 pCi/L. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a person has a 1% (one in 100) risk of developing cancer from life-long household use and consumption of water containing 20,000 pCi/L of dissolved radon, or breathing air containing 4 pCi/L of radon. This is considered a high risk when compared to the cancer risks from other contaminants in drinking water, which are in the range of one in 10,000 to one in 1 million.

A map found on the WDHS website showed out of 157 Radon tests done in Baldwin homes, the maximum level of Radon found was 98.7 pCi/L, while the minimum found was 0.3. The median level was 2.3 pCi/L. 41 of the homes tested with high levels of Radon; 26.1%.

Other area percentages saw Hammond with 23% of tested homes coming back high, Woodville with 39.5%, Glenwood City with 30.9%, Spring Valley with 55.1%, Boyceville with 49.1% and New Richmond with 64.3% and Roberts with 49.3%.

Radon gas easily escapes from well water containing dissolved radon once the water is exposed to air. This occurs at household taps, washing machines and showers. If there is radon in your well water it will increase your exposure to radon in air.

Radon levels are always low in surface waters such as lakes, streams and rivers.

The highest concentrations of dissolved radon are found in groundwater flowing through granite or granitic sand and gravel formations commonly found in northcentral and northwestern Wisconsin.

The office of the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that radon causes approximately 14,000 cancer deaths per year in the United States. Breathing radon gas is second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer. If you smoke, and your home has high levels of radon gas, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

An additional cancer risk comes from drinking water containing dissolved radon. Dissolved radon spreads throughout the body in the bloodstream potentially affecting the liver, stomach, intestines and lungs.

Children are more sensitive to radon because their lungs are smaller and their respiratory rates are twice as high. People with lung issues are also at greater risk because their lung tissue is already compromised. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer and the amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be many years.

Every well in Wisconsin has some level of dissolved radon in it. It is not possible to know if you have high radon levels in your drinking water without testing.

Obtain your radon test kit, which includes radon information and lab fees, at your local Health Department. If you want more information, please call the Radon Information Center at 1-888-LOW-RADON (1-888-569-7236) or visit www.lowradon.org.

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