The under-recognized health risk in our state

Radon is colorless, inert, scentless, flavorless, and is the leading cause of lung cancer...
Radon is colorless, inert, scentless, flavorless, and is the leading cause of lung cancer second to cigarettes.(Pixabay)
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 3:35 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - An odorless gas that you cannot see, smell or taste is an under-recognized health risk in our state. That’s according to the Alaska Division of Public Health.

The U.S. Surgeon General lists radon gas exposure as the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking, in the United States.  Radon is estimated to cause over 21,000 deaths each year and if you live in a home with high radon levels, smoking raises your risk of getting lung cancer by 10 times.

Radon is a radioactive element that is created in the ground naturally. “Radon gas is derived from underground rocks and dirt, and begins with radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium,” explains the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The problem is you cannot see, smell, or taste radon and it is dangerous.

Radon can easily enter homes and buildings through openings in the foundation and can cause a potential build up inside the home.

According to the Alaska Division of Public Health, many homes tested throughout Alaska have radon levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) limit.

The only way to detect the presence of radon in your home is to test for it.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends radon mitigation when radon levels in the air are more than or equal to 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).

All Alaskans should have their homes tested for Radon. More recommendations on testing can be found at the UAF Cooperative Extension office or on their website.

To learn more about what radon is and the dangers associated with the gas, the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, along with UAF Cooperative Extension, American Lung Association in Alaska and other organizations have created the Alaska Radon Poster Contest, for students and young artists, ages 9 to 14.

Engaging in this activity, students will learn about radon and how to reduce the “risk of exposure.” explains Jennifer Athey, a geologist with the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

The student’s artwork will be used to help inform the public about radon and its association as an indoor air health concern. Prizes will be awarded to the top 3 Alaska winners and the first-place winner’s artwork will be submitted to the National Radon Poster Contest. Poster entry deadline is Tuesday, November 15, 2022. More information about the poster contest is available at on the DNR Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys website.

Additional Alaska Radon Resources can also be found on the DNR Geological & Geophysical Surveys website.