Health experts warn Arizona residents about invisible threat of radon gas

Jan 16, 2024, 11:59 AM

A magnifying glass enlarges the word "cancer" on a newspaper...

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that causes lung cancer. (Pixabay Photo)

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — Health experts are warning Arizona residents about the invisible threat of radon gas, a naturally occurring substance known to cause lung cancer.

“Radon is undetectable by someone living in their home,” Nick Torres of the American Lung Association (ALA) told KTAR News 92.3 FM while doing outreach for January’s National Radon Action Month. “You can’t smell it, can’t see it, but it’s the number one cause of lung cancer among people who don’t smoke.”

Potentially unsafe levels of radon have been detected in about 15% of homes in the state, according to the ALA’s 2023 State of Lung Cancer report.

What is radon gas, and how is it detected?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from the breakdown of uranium in soil. It is responsible for lung cancers that kill an estimated 21,000 people per year in the U.S., according to the ALA.

Radon levels can vary from state to state, county to county and even from home to home within a neighborhood, Torres said.

The odorless, tasteless and colorless gas can only be detected through testing.

“We’re really encouraging everyone to get tested,” Torres said. “If you had your home tested in the past, we actually encourage folks to go back and retest periodically, as well, as homes’ foundations can shift sometimes.”

Foundation cracks or basement renovations are among the factors that can change radon levels in a home, Torres said.

How can Arizona residents test for radon gas?

The ALA says do-it-yourself test kits are effective and relatively inexpensive.

“You can also reach out to a licensed radon professional,” Torres said. “Many contractors are certified for radon, and they can test and really share more details with homeowners on an individual basis.”

A list of radon-certified Arizona contractors can be found on the state Department of Health Services website.

What should Arizonans do if their homes have high radon gas levels?

Residents who get readings that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level should pursue professional mitigation services.

“It’s really as simple as taking the trapped radon gas from around the foundation and piping it outdoors,” Torres said. “So, once the radon is piped outdoors, it’s really not a danger to folks in your homes.”

Torres said the mitigation process could cost from $1,000 to $2,000.

“That’s really a low cost if we’re considering the drastic implications for high levels of radon,” he said. “We want everyone to avoid a potential lung cancer diagnosis.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Kate Ourada contributed to this report.

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Health experts warn Arizona residents about invisible threat of radon gas