Oct. 22--Cumberland County is rated as having the highest potential for
predicted average indoor radon screening levels, according to the Environmental
Cumberland County is not alone in that rating.
A large number of counties in Pennsylvania are also rated as red zones,
according to a map on the EPA's website which shows a breakdown of screening
levels across the country. A red zone is defined as having a predicted average
indoor radon screening level greater than four picocuries per liter, the site
said. Other classifications are orange and yellow zones, with yellow having the
lowest potential for radon levels.
While January is the official month dedicated to radon awareness, the third full
week in October has been dubbed National Radon Action Week by the EPA.
Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible and odorless radioactive gas, said
Amanda Witman, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental
Protection. The gas is a byproduct of uranium.
"The reason that there is a significant amount of radon in the state of
Pennsylvania is because we have very uranium-rich soil," she said. "Radon is an
atomic-sized gas that can fit through most well-made, well-sealed basements out
there. ... Radon is completely depended on the geology beneath the foundation of
Witman said the only way to find out about these levels is to do a test, because
it can vary even within a neighborhood. She said the department has had
neighbors do tests and one house can have an incredibly high level and the other
can have a low one.
"It varies significantly," Witman said. "There's no rhyme or reason to it. ...
There's absolutely no way of knowing unless you do a test. You should never
discount the potential for having radon because of (any) factors related to the
condition or type of home that you have."
Officials are especially concerned about radon levels because the gas has been
listed as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, killing
21,000 people last year, Witman said. She said it's important not to ignore the
issue, because people can not notice the damage immediately -- it causes harm
The department recommends that anyone who is not aware of the levels in their
home purchase a test at a hardware store and find out the number. If the number
is above four, Witman said the homeowner should have a mitigator come in to
develop a plan of action.
"We actually maintain a list of certified radon mitigation companies so that
residents of Pennsylvania can go onto our website and see (what's available),"
she said. "Typically that plan of action includes some type of air infiltration
Witman said the level of radon will determine whether a homeowner will need to
have an active or passive system put it. The passive one consists of a set of
PVC pipes that runs along the foundation, goes up through the walls and releases
the radon at the roof level. A more active one would require a fan sucking the
radon out and then venting it along the roof line, Witman said. The improvements
vary in price, generally costing somewhere between $500 and $1,000 to install,
The department recommends doing the test when people move in and also if any
changes are made to the house that would affect how air would leave it, Witman
said. She said the instructions are included with the test, but that it should
be done in the lowest level of the house and placed at waist level in the middle
of the testing area. Witman said everyone should know the level of radon in
their house, because it could save them from getting lung cancer.
"It can significantly impact the health of your family in the long term," Witman
said. "You definitely want to make sure that the air that you're breathing is
clean and free of this radioactive gas."
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