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Press Release

Monongalia County Health Department offers a discount on radon testing

Jan. 12, 2023

MORGANTOWN, WV (Jan. 12, 2022) — If you reside in Monongalia County or nearby, you live in a radon zone.

Nationally, 1 in 15 homes have high levels of radon, a natural gas that seeps up from the rocks in the earth. But in Morgantown, that figure is 1 in 5.

That makes getting your home tested for radon even more important. At least through January and perhaps longer, as part of National Radon Action Month, Monongalia County Health Department’s Environmental Health program is offering tests for $65, down from $125.

“It’s a benefit to the community to try to reduce prices and allow people an opportunity to have their homes tested,” said Joe Lawson, a registered sanitarian at MCHD Environmental Health.

And now, Monongalia County Health Department can handle extra tests. Since the radon testing program was reintroduced in 2015, Lawson has been the only certified measurement specialist on staff. But recently, two newer sanitarians, Alexis Drake and John Lalli, have gone through the certification process.

What’s more, MCHD now has five continuous radon monitors. It’s helpful to have more measurement devices than specialists, because a radon test requires that the monitor be left in the lowest livable space of a home for 48 hours.

“It shuts off on its own, and then we’ll pick it up,” Lawson said. “The monitor generates a report that the customer can see.”

If the reading is 4 picocuries per liter or higher, then the homeowner can have mitigation techniques done, including adding ventilation and/or making the space more radon resistant, that will lower the radon levels in their home. Newer builds can have these features included.

“On average, it costs about $1,500 to have a certified radon contractor make these changes to your home,” Lawson said.

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. It’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, killing on average 21,000 individuals a year. It’s the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. The combination of radon and smoking is especially deadly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which designated National Radon Action Month, produces a National Radon Action Plan and updates it periodically.

In 2021, the plan set a goal for the nation to find, fix and prevent high indoor radon levels in 8 million buildings by 2025 and prevent 3,500 lung cancer deaths per year.

Winter is the best time to test your home for radon because the cold weather means homes are more closed up, which provides a more accurate reading.

In addition to wintertime, other times to consider getting a radon test are when you are buying or selling a home; if changes in your home have someone living in a lower level than previously; if your home has never been tested for radon or it’s been a while since it’s been tested.

Currently, MCHD Environmental Health sanitarians will travel outside of Monongalia County, approximately as far east as Kingwood and as far south as exit 132 off Interstate 79 in Fairmont, to conduct radon testing.

Preston County is also considered a “radon zone,” with higher levels consistently found there. And while Marion County’s rate is more moderate, “I’ve tested in Marion County and found high results there,” Lawson said. “Just because they say it’s a moderate level in Marion County doesn’t mean there is no radon. You can have a high level anyplace.”

To schedule a radon test, call MCHD Environmental Health at 304-598-5131. You can also find more information at monchd.org/services/radon.

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