Do you live in a radon zone? MCHD can help you find out.
Jan. 18, 2023
By Mary Wade Burnside
In the United States, 1 in 15 homes have high levels of radon, but here in Monongalia County, that number is 1 in 5.
Monongalia County Health Department has offered radon testing for several years, but now, in honor of National Radon Action Month, we’re sweetening the pot: Through at least the month of January, a radon test costs just $65 instead of the regular $125.
This coincides with some positive steps that have improved MCHD Environmental Health’s ability to conduct a radon test: We now have three sanitarians certified to perform it instead of just one, and they now have five radon measurement units to use.
That’s useful, because it takes a little bit of time to measure radon — in this case, 48 hours. A sanitarian will come to your home and place the device — a continuous radon monitor — in the lowest livable area. Once the monitor is activated, after the 48 hours are up, it turns off automatically.
The sanitarian will pick up the monitor and download data, which creates a report that is available for the homeowner by mail, email or pickup at the health department.
If the reading is 4 picocuries per liter or higher, then the homeowner can perform mitigation techniques that will lower the radon levels in their home.
This might sound overwhelming, but a certified radon contractor can do the job by creating more ventilation and/or using a method that helps keep radon from entering a home. The average cost to have this done by a is $1,500. New builds should automatically be better ventilated and more radon resistant.
Knowing the levels of radon in your home is important because it’s the No. 2 cause of lung cancer, after smoking. And it’s the No. 1 cause of lung cancer for non-smokers.
Monongalia County’s rocky surroundings account for the higher rate of radon occurrence here. But just because your neighbor has high levels of radon doesn’t mean you will, and vice versa. Radon levels can fluctuate in an area and over the years.
So what is radon? It’s a naturally occurring colorless and odorless gas that results from the decay of uranium deep underground. Radon moves up through the bedrock, then into the soil, and then up from the soil into the atmosphere.
When radon comes up into the air outside, it’s harmless. When it comes up into your basement and into your house, it can become a problem.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which designated January as National Radon Action Month, recommends getting a radon test at certain intervals, such as when buying or selling a home or if occupants begin spending more time in a lower level of the house. A potential home buyer might want to consider retesting if it’s been more than two years since the previous radon measurements were taken.
January, or winter in general, is considered the best time to get a radon test because it’s colder outside and homes are more closed up, allowing for a more accurate reading.
The EPA produces a National Radon Action Plan and updates it periodically. In 2021, the plan set a United States goal to find, fix and prevent high indoor radon levels in 8 million buildings by 2025 and prevent 3,500 lung cancer deaths per year.
Leaders from multiple sectors work together to accomplish this and some efforts are funded by grants.
To schedule a test, call 304-598-5131.
And if any of this makes you want to quit smoking in addition to looking into your radon levels, the state of West Virginia can help with that. It’s been a few years since the state updated its West Virginia Tobacco Quitline, which offers online enrollment, coaching calls and products to help smokers give up cigarettes.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.