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Originally published: 2013-01-10 10:49:09
Last modified: 2013-01-10 10:49:09

Our View: Passing this test is vital

Because any colorless, odorless, radioactive gas to which your home, school and workplace is highly susceptible can be life-threatening, the N.C. Department of Heath and Human Services is wise to sound the alarm about radon, a common substance to which we are commonly exposed.

We'd be wise to listen.

The radiation protection section of the state health department is rightly joining in the January announcement about national Radon Action Month -- an announcement which declares radon as the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Radon becomes a problem when it becomes an unwelcome guest in any area where we spend a significant amount of time -- our homes, our schools, our places of business -- and because it's not easily detectable and comes from a natural source, the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in our soil, it can be easy to consume long-term exposure and not know it. That can be deadly: Radon is a Class A known human carcinogen, an agent that causes cancer in people.

That agent may be more prevalent and malevolent than you think. Many areas of Western North Carolina have tested for elevated radon levels that can be dangerous: An elementary student, for example, who spends eight hours a day, 180 days per year in a classroom with elevated radon will receive about 10 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant.

The only way to rid a space of excessive radon gas is through professional mitigation, but you don't have to be a professional to test for the substance initially. 

In January, the NCDHHS is offering free radon test kits you can do yourself. Order the kits at http://www.ncradon.org. 

The cost of the test kit is free. The cost of not testing could be immeasurable.