State data show areas of Oregon at high risk for dangerous radon levels

State program urges home testing during January’s Radon Action Month

New Oregon radon data show that many regions of the state are at moderate risk of having high radon levels, with several pockets of high-risk areas around the Willamette Valley, and in eastern and southern Oregon.

But people can take steps to reduce their exposure to radon, including testing their homes for the gas and hiring a professional to reduce it to a safe level.

Oregon’s areas of highest risk for radon are in Scappoose, Banks and North Plains, as well as Boring, Parkdale, Dundee, Turner and La Grande, according to the data published on the Oregon Radon Program website, www.healthoregon.org/radon. A large swath of Portland, particularly in the north, northeastern and southeastern parts of the city, also was found to be at high risk.

The Radon Program collects radon test data from test kit manufacturers in an effort to understand which areas of the state have the potential for high radon levels. It allows the program to identify areas where educational outreach efforts need to be focused. The data, initially published two years ago, was recently updated with additional radon test data from around the state.

"The take-home message is that every home needs to be tested, regardless of where it is located,” says Brett Sherry, Radon Program coordinator at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. “You may have the only house on the block with elevated radon levels.”

Radon is odorless, tasteless and invisible. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes up from the ground and is drawn into buildings, where it can build up to dangerous levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoking, and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

The Radon Program is joining the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in urging Oregonians to take action and test their homes for radon during January as part of National Radon Action Month.

Testing homes for radon is simple and inexpensive. Radon test kits can be purchased at local hardware and home improvement stores, or online from radon test kit supply companies. Many test kits are priced between $15 and $25. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of many common home repairs, such as painting or having a new water heater installed. The best time to test for radon is during the heating season, when the windows and doors are closed up tight. This is when you would expect to find the highest radon levels in your home.

“Radon has been detected in homes all across Oregon. The only way to know if your home has high radon levels is to test," Sherry says.

Radon levels vary throughout Oregon depending on the underlying geology. Residents can see what levels have been detected in their neighborhoods by visiting the Radon Program website at www.healthoregon.org/radon, which lists radon test data by city and Zip code.

There are many cities and Zip codes in the state for which the Radon Program has little to no data. In an effort to get a better understanding of the radon potential across the state, the Radon Program is offering a free radon test kit to residents whose homes are in Zip codes with fewer than 20 radon test results. Residents can visit the Radon Program website to see if they are eligible.

Those living in Zip codes where there are fewer than 20 test results can send an email to [email protected] to receive instructions on how to get a free test kit, which will be provided while supplies last.

For more information on radon, radon testing and mitigation, radon-resistant new construction, or to order a test kit online, call the Oregon Radon Program at 971-673-0440 or go to www.healthoregon.org/radon or visit the EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/radon/nram.

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