Silent Killer in Tens of Thousands of Homes Here in Capital Region


You can not see it or smell it, but you may very well be breathing it right now as you are reading this. It is radon; a gas that can kill you. It is a hazard in the home and it is a big problem here in the Capital Region.

The Seely family of Rensselaer County moved to the Capital Region from Massachusetts in October. Before buying the house, the Seely's real estate agent recommended they have the house tested for radon. Mom and dad, and the now 2-year-old twins, Emily and her brother Ryan, were shocked to learn of the disturbing results.

The results came back about 50, when a normal reading is about four. The Seely's problem is fairly common in the Capital Region. There are a lot of dangerous levels of radon in our area.

Radon is a radioactive gas that seeps up out of the ground as uranium breaks down. Outside, Radon is diluted and is not harmful. But if it gets trapped inside a house, at large enough concentrations over a long period of time, it can cause lung cancer.

"Lung cancer kills 85-percent of those who contract it," says Dr. Simon Spivack, a lung disease researcher.

Dr. Spivack at Albany Medical Center has been researching lung disease for 15-years.

"Most cases of radon induced lung cancer come from those who have smoked," says Dr. Spivack. "A very small percentage of this group comes from those who you could say are never smokers."

On the "Cancer Survivors Against Radon" website, you can read and watch stories of people who say they never smoked and were never around smokers, who ended up with lung cancer just the same. They all lived in high radon areas. They did not know about radon or radon testing.

The EPA says radon kills 21-thousand people in the United States every year. Although you can not stop radon from getting into your home, you can do something to get it out. There's a way to protect your home and your health from radon.

When Dave Whitehead read about dangerous radon levels in parts of Rensselaer County, he wanted to know if radon was in his North Greenbush home.

"It turns out radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking," says Whitehead.

The road to radon relief starts with the purchase of a radon test kit. They are available at just about any hardware store. If the test results come in higher than four, you might want to make a phone call.

"The original reading was 14 pico curries per liter," says Bob Mahoney of Radon Technologies, Inc. "They say anything over four, you do something."

Bob installed a ventilation systems of sorts.

"We're drawing it through the soil in a controlled fashion and collecting a majority of the gas before it enters the home, and discharging it safely outside the house," Mahoney says.

Dave Whitehead re-tested for radon after the mitigation device was installed.

"The readings were down to 1.4 pico curries per liter," Whitehead said. "So this thing works."

The cost of mitigation equipment generally runs from 800 dollars to around 3-thousand. You could consider it an investment in your health and your home. It eliminates a potential sticking point when you go to sell your home, since a radon disclosure form comes with every New York home transaction.

Maybe the best way to find out about radon in your home is to contact the New York State Health Department. For about seven dollars, they will send you a radon test kit. Follow the instructions, send it back to them, and they will contact you with the results.

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