Date Published: 12/28/2019 [Source]
January is National Radon Action Month designated to increase awareness of the dangers of radon, which is especially relevant to Central Illinois where residents live with high levels of the carcinogenic gas, according to the U.S. Surgeon General and Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health and scientists.
Illinois has some of the highest levels of radon in the country, according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), and Peoria has the highest recorded readings of radon in Illinois, says Jim Emanuels of Peoria Radon Mitigation in rural Dunlap.
There is no "safe" level of radon, but 4 pCi/L is a point where 7 of 1,000 non-smokers will develop lung cancer, according to Patrick Daniels, director of IEMA's radon program. Daniels said radon "is the leading cause of death in private homes in the United States."
However, "it is hard to be aware of it," said Joseph Davis, member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, "since radon is a colorless, odorless gas [and] harmful even in small quantities over long periods of time."
Indeed, spreading awareness isn't easy, says Emanuels, 55, who launched his radon business 10 years ago after getting laid off as a sheet-metal worker, earning his certification and eventually hiring six employees. In October, he arranged for radon test kits to be given to every fifth grader in Tazewell County, where children became engaged with the issue.
A naturally occurring gas, radon is released into the environment when radium and uranium break down from deposits within rock.
"Radon is a long-term health risk," Daniels said. "About 21,000 people in the United States – about 1,200 deaths in Illinois, annually die of radon-induced lung cancer." The No. 2 cause of lung cancer, it's also linked to breast, uterine, pancreatic and other cancers.
Testing for radon and getting work done to lower radon levels is the "single most important thing people can do," especially when doing new construction or additions, said Daniels, who's been with the IEMA for about 18 years. "The only way to know whether or not your home has a radon problem is to test it,"
Test kits for individuals are readily available at retailers and also many Extension offices and county health departments. For example, the Peoria City/County Health Department has used a grant from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to provide test kits.