NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
September 30, 1999
Note to Editors: October is National Home Indoor Air Quality Action Month
Radon was found at elevated levels in about 60 percent of North Dakota homes during an Environmental Protection Agency study. A North Dakota State University air quality expert says your health may be at risk if the colorless, odorless radioactive gas is seeping into your home.
"During radioactive decay of radon gas, an alpha particle is given off," explains Ken Hellevang of the NDSU Extension Service. "If this decay occurs in the lung, it is possible that a cell might be damaged, which could develop into cancer." The health risk from radon is cumulative with no immediate symptoms.
The EPA recommends that radon levels in a home be less that four picocuries per liter of air. Hellevang says homes in the region should be tested to determine the level of radon. The testing device, normally a charcoal canister kit, is set up in the lowest habitable space (usually the basement and during the heating season when the house is kept closed) for a few days and then sent in for analysis. If the reading exceeds the recommended level, further testing will be needed to determine if there is sufficient radon in the living space to require action to reduce the level. Test kits are available from your local public health district or from the American Lung Association of North Dakota by calling (800) 252-6325.
For homes with elevated radon levels, specialists have developed methods for venting the gas away from living areas. The procedure that has produced the most consistent results is a combination of sub-slab suction, using a fan, with a sand or gravel layer under the concrete floor, and basement floor crack sealing. The cost for these features on new construction is only a few hundred dollars, Hellevang says.
For more information, view the NDSU Extension Service publication "Radon in North Dakota" on the internet at http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/ageng/structu/ae969w.htm or request publication AE-969 from your local NDSU Extension Service office or from the NDSU Extension Distribution Center, Box 5655, NDSU, Fargo, ND 58105-5655.
For more information about indoor air quality visit the NDSU Extension Service Indoor Air Quality site at http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/abeng/iaq.htm , the Environmental Protection Agency's web site: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/ , or call the EPA Indoor Air Quality Info Line at (800) 438-4318.
October is national Home Indoor Air Quality Action and Awareness Month as part of the Healthy Indoor Air for America's Homes Project, a cooperative effort of educators in each state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the EPA.
Source: Ken Hellevang (701) 231-7243
Editor: Tom Jirik (701) 231-9629