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DEP Urges Testing of Homes, Schools During National Radon Action Month

The DEP urges all homeowners and schools in New Jersey to check for the presence of radon by using simple tests

The Department of Environmental Protection urges homeowners and school officials as part of National Radon Action Month to test for radon, a naturally occurring gas that is linked to cancer.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency designates each January as
National Radon Action Month to draw attention to health risks posed by
radon. The DEP is urging all homeowners and schools in New Jersey to check
for the presence of radon by using simple tests that are available through
radon testing contractors, some local health departments, mail order, home
improvement centers, and hardware stores.

"This is the smart thing to do," said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. "This
simple and inexpensive test can ensure the safety and health of you and your
families, as well as our students. In most cases, there are simple steps you
can take to eliminate radon if it is detected."

The northwestern part of the state, particularly Sussex, Warren, Morris,
Somerset and Hunterdon counties, has the largest number of homes with
elevated radon concentrations and sections of Mercer and Monmouth counties
also have high radon levels. However, everyone should test for radon because
pockets of high radon concentrations can be found in other parts of the
state too.

The DEP and the EPA recommend that action be taken to mitigate if test
results indicate radon levels of 4 picocuries per liter (4 pCi/L) of radon
or higher. Mitigation usually entails installation of a venting system that
draws the gas out of the home.

Colorless, odorless and tasteless, radon is a radioactive gas that results
from the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soil and rock. Low
levels of uranium occur widely in the Earth's crust, and can be found in all
50 states.

The EPA estimates radon causes 21,000 deaths annually. The Surgeon General
has warned that radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers,
and second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking.

Radon enters buildings through openings that are in contact with the ground,
such as cracks in the foundation, sump pits, and small openings around
pipes. Radon decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your
lungs when you breathe, which could damage lung tissue. Long term exposure
can lead to lung cancer.

Residents can test for radon themselves or hire a New Jersey certified radon
measurement business to perform the testing. Check with your local health
department to find out if they provide either free or low-cost radon test
devices.

Radon self-test kits can be purchased from $15 to $50. Contractors generally
charge between $50 and $200.

Schools must obtain testing devices from a certified business or work with a
certified contractor.

Homeowners who purchase kits at retail stores should make sure the kit is
labeled with the New Jersey certification number of the company that
produced the test kit (the number will begin with "MEB9" followed by 4
digits). If you hire a contractor to conduct the test, make sure the
technician who places and picks up the test device is certified by the
state.

Lists of New Jersey certified testing and mitigation businesses and general
radon information are available at www.njradon.org or call the Radon Section
Information Line at (800) 648-0394 or (609) 984-5425.

To access the New Jersey Radon Potential Map, which shows radon risks for
each municipality in the state, go to: www.njradon.org/radonin.htm

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