TOPEKA (KSNT) – High levels of radon, a radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, can be found in more than one in four Kansas homes. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is urging people to test their homes for gas, especially during the winter months.
“In the winter months, when the outside temperature is much colder than the air inside the house, you can actually pull radon out of the soil at a higher rate,” said Mark Ungerer, administrator of the Kansas Radon Action Program. . “Most people won’t know they’ve lived in a place with high radon levels until they develop lung cancer and have never smoked in their lives. They think, ‘Where could this be from?’”
Ungerer said that symptoms like coughing and wheezing are not usually related to radon exposure. Instead, high levels of the gas can lead to long-term risk of lung cancer. Radon levels can vary from home to home, with some people detecting much higher levels of the gas than their neighbors.
Roger Dahlby, an environmental engineer with Advanced Environmental Services, Inc. in Topeka, said he learned that one of his clients had died after developing lung cancer from years of exposure to high levels of radon in his home. Dahlby said he helped the client with mitigation techniques when he was seeking services.
“The only way you can tell radon, because you can’t see it, smell it, taste it, is with a radon monitor to see if your home is safe,” Dahlby said.
Without testing, the gas can go undetected for years in homes or buildings.
Dahlby said short-term screening services typically take about two days. According to the Centers for Disease Control, long-term test kits measure radon in the home for more than 90 days and are more likely to indicate your home’s average level throughout the year.
“The best decision is to test no matter how you do it,” Dahlby said. “We have to be aware that this is taking lives and it is serious.”
DeSoto, Eudora, Gardner, Junction City, Lawrence, Manhattan, Olathe, Salina, and Topeka all have building codes that require new homes to be built using radon-resistant techniques. More Kansas counties, including Shawnee County and Douglas County, have adopted this change to their building codes, according to state health officials.
According to the Kansas Radon Program, most county extension offices in Kansas offer kits for Kansas residents for around $10.
If homeowners detect high levels of radon, health officials said it’s best to contact a certified radon contractor. You can get a list of certified radon contractors by calling the Kansas Radon Hotline at 800-693-5343. Additional information about radon can be found at kansasradonprogram.org and at epa.gov/radon.