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Town urges radon testing

January 8, 2019

GREENWICH — The Greenwich Department of Health is making sure residents have the tools they need to detect Radon, a health risk not to be ignored.

Through a state grant, radon air testing kits, which are regularly $60, will be available for $34 in January; water testing kits will be reduced from $70 to $42 during the month.

Radon is found at elevated levels in close to one of five homes in Connecticut, officials said. As the harmful substance is invisible and odorless, a person would not know it is there without the proper testing equipment.

The health risk is higher during the winter when homes and other buildings are closed up.

Radon can come up from the ground and enter a home through small cracks and other openings in the foundation. It can also occur naturally in groundwater and, for homes that have wells, it can become aerosolized into the air when faucets, showers, dishwashers or washing machines are running.

“This program demonstrates the department’s commitment to protect residents from a serious public health hazard,” town Director of Health Caroline Calderone Baisley said. “All residents are encouraged to test their homes for radon in both well water and air this winter.”

Radon is not a problem that gets enough attention, officials said.

“Because you can’t see or smell radon, people tend to downplay its health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer in their homes,” said Doug Serafin, director of the town Division of Environmental Services’ laboratory.

Serafin said results from more than 10 years of radon testing in homes show half of the homes tested in Greenwich had a radon-in-air level above the EPA action limit. And since it can be remediated easily and inexpensively by certified contractors, Serfanin said residents should not hesitate to test their air and well water for radon.

Action is recommended for people who have radon in the air that exceeds the level of 4.0 picocuries per liter, or pCi/L. Even if it has been below that level in the past, homeowners are encouraged to retest because radon levels can fluctuate. This is especially true if there has been recent construction work on the property since it can disturb the soil or cause cracks in a home’s foundation.

It is recommended that wells be tested every five years. If radon is found in well water at 5,000 pCi/L or more, action should be taken.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the country after smoking, and is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. Radon is estimated to be responsible for more than 21,000 deaths a year, with close to 2,900 of them occurring in people who have never smoked.

Smokers who are exposed to radon have a much higher risk for developing lung cancer than smokers who are not exposed to it.

Radon testing kits can be obtained by calling the town’s laboratory at 203-622-7843. The laboratory is located on the ground floor of Town Hall and is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The testing can be done by the homeowners.

Results will be sent to residents via mail and if results indicate an issue, a list of state certified contractors will be provided. Typically the town does about 200 tests a year for radon.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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