What is Radon?
Identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, behind only tobacco smoke. Radon is thought to be responsible for up to 20,000 lung cancers per year. Since radon levels may be elevated in all areas of the County, EH staff recommend that all residents conduct a radon test in their home.
Radon is a radioactive gas produced naturally by the decay of uranium and radium. In the soil, as these elements decay, radon gas is produced. Radon easily moves in homes through cracks and other openings. Once into the home, radon has less air to mix with, and may build up to dangerous levels. Radon is odorless, colorless, and undetectable by the human senses.
Radon decay products or the radioactive particles can be inhaled. Once inhaled, the particles stick to your lungs and release radioactive energy. The radioactive energy can cause damage to the lung tissue. Extended exposure to high levels of radon can increase the risk of lung cancer.
Radon is measured in picocuries of radiation per liter of air (pC/L). The EPA has set the radon standard (action level) to 4 pC/L. When radon levels are above 4 pC/L, action should be taken to reduce the level.
Radon is probably responsible for about 15,000 to 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States per year, and roughly one-third of them are preventable.
Testing for Radon
The only way to determine if your home has a high radon level is to test for it. There are two different types of test kits available to test for radon.
- The short-term test kit is left in the home for a period of 2-7 days (depending on the recommendations from the manufacturer). The results of this test provide the homeowner with an idea of the potential for a problem in the home. The ideal time for testing is during the fall and winter heating season, when the home is closed up.
- The long term test kit is left in the home for a period of up to one year (depending on the recommendations from the manufacturer). The results of this test provides the homeowner with the annual average exposure of radon. It is strongly suggested that the long term test never be used unless a short term test kit has been done first.
What do the results mean?
The US EPA standard is 4.0 pCi/L.
- Results less than 4.0 pCi/L - no further action is necessary.
- Results greater than 4.0 pCi/L and less than 8.0 pCi/L - it is recommended to conduct a long term test to determine the annual average exposure. If the result from the long term test is above 4.0 pCi/L, efforts should be made to reduce the radon level.
- Results greater than 8.0 pCi/L - it is suggested to take a second short term test to verify that the first short term test is accurate. If the result of the second test is similar to the first test, action should take place to reduce your exposure to radon in your home.
Winnebago County Results
Radon Test Kits
The ideal time to test for radon is during the winter months, when the windows and doors are closed. Test kits are available at the Winnebago County Health Department for Winnebago County residents for $10. The kits are intended to be a screening tool for people who are testing for the first time. Some Cities/Villages/Townships in Winnebago County may also have test kits available. Contact your Town Clerk to inquire about test kit availability.
Test kits can be obtained at:
Winnebago County Health Deptartment
112 Otter Ave, Oshkosh, WI 54903-2808
Monday through Friday, 8AM to 4PM
Radon test kits can also be purchased at a variety of places. Local hardware stores or home improvement stores do carry radon test kits and prices can vary. When using a radon test kit, always fully read the manufacturer's instructions and follow them closely.