Wisconsin homeowners encouraged to test houses for cancer-causing gas called radon

NOW: Wisconsin homeowners encouraged to test houses for cancer-causing gas called radon


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A dangerous gas known to cause lung cancer in thousands of Americans is common in Wisconsin, according to the Department of Health Services (DHS).

Gov. Tony Evers declared January as National Radon Action Month.

Radon is a radioactive gas found in soil and rock after elements, like uranium, decay. 

"It is something that is odorless, tasteless and colorless," SWAT Environmental Regional Director Scott Jacka said. "It can happen to anyone. It can be anywhere."

Radon can move into buildings through cracks and holes in the basement. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about one in every 15 homes in the United States has high levels of radon. 

DHS reports about one in every ten homes in Wisconsin has high levels of radon. 

Dr. Toby Campbell, a UW Health oncologist, told CBS 58 radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports more than 21,000 people die every year from lung cancer caused by radon.

"Globally, across the United States, and the rest of the world, we know that radon is a significant risk," Campbell said. "We have a lot of work to do and if possible, avoiding getting this deadly disease would be my recommendation."

Testing for radon is common during inspections when a house is sold, but experts encourage homeowners to test regularly because levels can change with the seasons or home renovations.

"The only way you can take care of it is if you test for it," Jacka said. 

Testing can be done with or without professional help. 

If the first test is less than 4 pCi/L, DHS said no follow-up is needed.

If the first test is between 4 and 7 pCi/L, DHS encourages more long-term testing.

If the first test is 8 pCi/L and above, DHS encourages homeowners to consider fixing their homes. 

"No level of radon is deemed safe," SWAT Environmental Quality Manager George Booth said.

SWAT Environmental, a local and national radon mitigation service, encourages homeowners to take action if a test comes back 4 pCi/L or higher.

SWAT Environmental specializes in installing systems that remove hazardous amounts of radon from a home.

"We’re moving as much air below the foundation of the home as we can to basically pull the radon out from the soil and vent it to the outside of the home where it's no longer hazardous because it's not confined within the constraints of the home," Booth said.

For more information or to order tests, call 1-888-LOW-RADON (1-888-569-7236) or 1-800-NO-RADON (1-800-667-2366).

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