Radon testing in Nebraska shows that a high level of radon gas in homes across the state is common.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring gas that originates in the soil and can build to dangerous levels in homes. Since it is radioactive, it's very damaging to lung tissue when people breathe it in. The EPA estimates that approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year are due to radon exposure.
With over 48,000 homes being tested since 1990, 59 percent have been above the acceptable health level set by the EPA, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
The EPA-set health standard for radon is 4 picocuries per liter of air, although exposure to even lower levels can raise a person's risk.
A recent analysis of radon data shows:
"People should reduce their risk as much as possible," said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer. "Radon testing is the first step to knowing how much risk you and your family are exposed to in your home. If you have a high level, you can take measures to reduce it."
Sealing obvious cracks and openings in the foundation of the home can slow radon entry, as can pressurizing the basement by opening air registers. However, since these steps will only lower the radon level slightly, contacting a licensed contractor will be the next step for most homes with higher levels. The contractor can install a permanent mitigation system which will actively pull the radon from under the foundation slab and exhaust it above the roof.
To see the new summary data and maps showing areas in the state with high radon levels, visit http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/radon. This page will also have information on how to get a radon test kit and a list of contractors who are licensed to mitigate radon levels in homes.