(Editor’s note: Radon is generated in abundance from granitic rocks and sediments that contain abundant “granite” fragments — including the moraines and river sediments around Wallowa Lake and the Lostine River. If you live in these areas, you might wish to pay close attention to the following article.)

Many parts of Oregon remain at risk of high radon — an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas. 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 nonsmokers.

“Every homeowner should test their home for radon every two to five years,” says Curtis Cude, Radon Awareness Program manager at the Oregon Health Authority. “The best time to test is during the heating season, when the windows and doors are closed up tight.”

Many test kits are priced between $15 and $25 and can be found in most hardware stores. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of common home repairs, such as painting or having a new water heater installed.

The Radon Awareness 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 and to identify areas where educational outreach efforts need to be focused. The 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 send an email to radon.program@dhsoha.state.or.us to receive instructions on how to get a free test kit, which will be provided while supplies last.

There will be an opportunity to attend a free educational event to learn about radon, areas of concern, health effects and community resources. For details about the event visit the Northwest Radon Coalition website.

For more information on which areas of the state are at moderate to high risk of having elevated radon levels, radon testing and mitigation, or to order a test kit online contact the Radon Awareness Program at radon.program@dhsoha.state.or.us or visit http://www.healthoregon.org/radon.

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