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posted: 1/23/2014 1:39 PM

Have your home tested for radon levels

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Submitted by Kane County Health Department

Because of the unique geology in the Midwestern United States, and northeast Illinois in particular, homes in Kane County have the potential for higher levels of radon.

This is because the rocks and soil beneath our feet can contain uranium, which can produce radon, a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium. Radon has been found to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the world.

Radon gas can enter through cracks in homes/buildings/schools and expose people to the radiation. And because our homes are typically shut up tight during our cold winter days, any radon that enters your home will tend to linger much longer.

That is why January has been named National Radon Action Month, and the Kane County Health Department, in conjunction with the Kane County Healthy Places Coalition, recommends that now is a good time to test your home for the presence of radon.

For example, we know that almost half of the 10,000 Kane County homes and buildings, about 44 percent tested between 2003-2011, show high levels of radon, defined as four picocuries per liter or greater. This represented by the symbols 4pCi/L. Any level above four is considered high and it is recommended that steps be taken to reduce the levels through mitigation.

A new state of Illinois law that specifically targets the safety of children went into effect this month requiring child care centers to publicly post the results of the radon tests of their facilities.

The Health Department's Community Health Improvement Plan targets chronic diseases such as cancer, and the department recommends that all homes in Kane County be tested for radon as a way to reduce the cancer risk.

Testing kits are available for $15 from the Kane County Health Department and Kane County Development Office. This cost includes the kit, cost of mailing to a certified lab for analysis, and results. Kits are available at these locations:

• Aurora Health Department Office, 1240 N. Highland Ave., Suite 5, Aurora, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• Kane County Development Office, 719 South Batavia Ave., 4th Floor, Geneva, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• Elgin Health Department Office, 1750 Grandstand Place, Suite 2, Elgin, from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays.

Testing kits also are available at many local hardware stores. Free test kits are available to those who are income eligible through Community Contacts Inc. at (847) 697-8800

Not only is it important to test your home for dangerous levels of radon, it is just as important to take steps to lower the levels, a procedure called "mitigation." Illinois Emergency Management Agency estimates that only about one-third of those homes in Kane County found to have radon levels above the federal standard of four PCI/l actually have been mitigated.

The cost to mitigate a home averages about $1,200 and is done by certified professionals. You can find a list of professionals in your area by visiting the IEMA website.

A Speakers Bureau has been created to offer free radon presentations to the community. Contact Terry Roman at (630) 264-7653 or with questions. More information and resources about radon is available on the Health Department's website radon page.

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