Friday, Oct. 27

Nearly half of 22,000 homes tested in Illinois had excess levels of naturally occurring radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer          Send a link to a friend

IEMA urges homeowners to test homes for elevated levels of radon

[OCT. 27, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- After a study of radon testing results found that nearly half of 22,000 homes tested by professionals had potentially unsafe levels of radon, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is urging homeowners throughout the state to test their homes for radon. The study also found 80 counties where few, if any, professional tests for the naturally occurring radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer were conducted during the two-year study period.

"I can't emphasize enough how important it is for people to test their homes for radon," said Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director William C. Burke. "Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. It's easy to test your home to find out if your family is being exposed to high levels of radon and to have your home mitigated if levels are too high. But you'll never know what your risk is unless you test your home."

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. It can enter homes and buildings through small cracks in the foundation, sump pumps or soil in crawl spaces. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the nation. The National Academy of Sciences and the surgeon general estimate that 21,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur annually in the United States, with as many as 900 of those in Illinois.

Tracy Morjal, a McHenry County mother of two, knows the importance of home radon testing. Last year, Morjal tested her home and found radon levels in excess of 8 picocuries per liter of air, more than twice the U.S. EPA's recommended action level of 4.0. She had a radon reduction system installed in her home and today is spreading the word to others in her community about the need for radon testing.

"I want people to know about radon and take it very seriously," Morjal said. "I'm very concerned about my children's health, and I never allowed smoking in the house, to protect them from secondhand smoke. But when I found out that our house had high levels of radon, which is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, I knew I had to get it fixed."

Morjal contacted an IEMA-licensed radon mitigation company to install a radon reduction system. Today, radon levels in her home are well below the U.S. EPA action level.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recently verified and analyzed radon screening measurement data from 22,082 homes in 72 of 102 Illinois counties. Results indicate that approximately 46 percent of all homes tested had radon levels greater than the U.S. EPA action level of 4.0 picocuries per liter of air.

The screening information was obtained from radon measurement reports submitted by licensed radon measurement professionals throughout Illinois. Information used for the study came from radon measurements performed from January 2003 through December 2004. The data do not include radon tests conducted by homeowners. The new report updates an earlier version released by the state in 1992. Results from the 1992 report, as well as a U.S. EPA survey in Illinois, also are included in the latest report.

No data on home radon measurements by licensed contractors during the study period were available for 30 counties. In addition, 50 other counties had too few professional tests done to provide a good picture of the radon potential in that area. However, the previous studies by the state and U.S. EPA indicate excessive radon levels can be found in every county in Illinois.

While the Illinois Emergency Management Agency radon report used data from tests conducted by radon measurement professionals licensed by the agency, homeowners can conduct tests with kits purchased at hardware or home improvement stores. Do-it-yourself test kits cost approximately $20-$25 each. A home radon test conducted by a licensed radon contractor will cost around $125-$150.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency encourages anyone who discovers their home has elevated levels of radon to contact a licensed radon mitigation professional to correct the problem. As with radon measurement professionals, mitigation experts in Illinois are licensed by the IEMA to ensure they have the proper equipment, specialized training and technical skills to do the job right and reduce radon in the home to safe levels. Depending on the home, radon mitigation can cost between $800 and $1,200.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed January 2006 as Radon Action Month to urge people throughout the state to test their homes for the radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer. During that month, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the American Lung Association of Illinois gave out more than 2,500 free detectors and worked to increase public awareness of the need to test homes for radon. Results from the free tests distributed will be analyzed by the IEMA to further clarify the occurrence of radon throughout Illinois.

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"It's been known for some time that exposure to radon gas increases your risk of developing lung cancer, and smokers are at a higher risk for radon-induced lung cancer than nonsmokers," said Harold P. Wimmer, American Lung Association of Illinois president and chief executive officer. "The American Lung Association of Illinois is pleased to be working with IEMA in its efforts to increase radon awareness in Illinois."

IEMA's radon staff works with licensed radon professionals, real estate agents, county health departments, health care providers, the American Lung Association, Illinois State University, and the University of Illinois in Springfield and Chicago to help inform the public about radon risks. The agency offers continuing education courses on radon for real estate agents and home inspectors, gives presentations to groups throughout the state, and sets up exhibits at numerous conferences each year to help spread the word about radon.

Results from the study, lists of licensed radon measurement and mitigation professionals, and other information about radon are available at Radon information and free home test kits are also available at 1-800-325-1245.

Radon survey county summary

Counties with more than 50 percent of homes with radon levels greater than 4 pCi/L

  • Boone

  • DeKalb

  • Henry

  • Kane

  • Kendall

  • Ogle

  • Peoria

  • Rock Island

  • Sangamon

  • Tazewell

  • Woodford

Counties with 25 percent to 50 percent of homes tested with radon levels greater than 4 pCi/L

  • Cook

  • DuPage

  • Lake

  • LaSalle

  • Macon

  • McHenry

  • McLean

  • St. Clair

  • Will

  • Winnebago

Counties with less than 25 percent of homes tested with radon levels greater than 4 pCi/L

  • Madison

Counties with too few professional tests between January and December 2004 to provide a good picture of the radon potential in that area

  • Adams

  • Bureau

  • Carroll

  • Cass

  • Champaign

  • Christian

  • Clark

  • Clinton

  • Coles

  • Crawford

  • DeWitt

  • Edgar

  • Effingham

  • Fayette

  • Fulton

  • Grundy

  • Hancock

  • Iroquois

  • Jackson

  • Jefferson

  • Jersey

  • Jo Daviess

  • Kankakee

  • Knox

  • Lee

  • Livingston

  • Logan

  • Macoupin

  • Marion

  • Marshall

  • Mason

  • McDonough

  • Menard

  • Mercer

  • Monroe

  • Montgomery

  • Morgan

  • Moultrie

  • Piatt

  • Pike

  • Putnam

  • Randolph

  • Schuyler

  • Shelby

  • Stark

  • Stephenson

  • Vermilion

  • Wabash

  • Whiteside

  • Williamson

Counties with no data available between January and December 2004

  • Alexander

  • Bond

  • Brown

  • Calhoun

  • Clay

  • Cumberland

  • Douglas

  • Edwards

  • Ford

  • Franklin

  • Gallatin

  • Greene

  • Hamilton

  • Hardin

  • Henderson

  • Jasper

  • Johnson

  • Lawrence

  • Massac

  • Perry

  • Pope

  • Pulaski

  • Richland

  • Saline

  • Scott

  • Union

  • Warren

  • Washington

  • Wayne

  • White

[Illinois Emergency Management Agency news release]

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