PORTLAND — Many parts of Oregon remain at risk of high radon levels, and for one Portland family it meant listening to their realtor, who not only helped them find their dream home, but was also looking out for their safety.
“Our Realtor told us that we should have it tested for radon as part of our inspection. I had not even heard of radon or what it was,” explained Melanie Boekee.
“There were borderline levels of radon, so we asked the seller to install a mitigation system.”
Radon is odorless, tasteless and invisible. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes up from the ground and is drawn into buildings, where it can build up to dangerous levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoking, and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Many test kits are priced between $15 and $25. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of many common home repairs, such as painting or having a new water heater installed. The best time to test for radon is during the heating season, when the windows and doors are closed up tight. This is when you would expect to find the highest radon levels in your home.“
Five years after the mitigation system was installed at the Boekees’ home, Melanie is re-testing for radon to ensure the air she is breathing is safe. “The radon test kit was easy to find. They have them all over the place, even on Amazon. It was very easy to use—it only took a couple of minutes to get it set up.”
Homeowners Should Test Regularly
Every homeowner should test their home for radon every two to five years,” recommends Kari Christensen, Radon Program coordinator at the Oregon Health Authority, Public Health Division. “Unfortunately, there are many cities and zip codes in the state for which no testing has been done and the Radon Program has little to no data.”
The Radon Program collects radon test data from test kit manufacturers in an effort to understand which areas of the state have the potential for high radon levels, and to identify areas where educational outreach efforts need to be focused. The program is offering a free radon test kit to residents whose homes are in zip codes with fewer than 20 radon test results. Residents can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive instructions on how to get a free test kit, which will be provided while supplies last.
Many regions of the state are at moderate risk of having high radon levels, with several pockets of high-risk areas in the Northwest, around the Willamette Valley, and in eastern and southern Oregon, according to 2018 data published on the Oregon Radon Program website. A large swath of Portland, particularly in the north, northeastern and southeastern parts of the city, also was found to be at high risk.
“We want that peace of mind, to know that we are safe,” Melanie said of re-testing her home. An update showing Melanie’s radon test results will be posted on OHA’s Facebook page within the next couple of weeks.