Health Dept. Offers New Testing for Radon in Well Water

The month of January has been designated as Radon Action Month by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking, and it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is estimated to be responsible for more than 21,000 deaths from lung cancer in the US each year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. Smokers exposed to radon have a much higher risk for developing lung cancer than smokers who are not exposed.

In response to this important public health issue, for the thirteenth consecutive year the Greenwich Department of Health will use some state grant funds to support radon testing in the community.

A new radon testing program is being offered this year for the first time. The Greenwich Department of Health Laboratory will now offer testing for radon in well water. This service is appropriate for homeowners who get their drinking water from private wells, as the distribution water (“town water”) from Aquarion does not contain radon. Reduced cost radon tests for air and well water will be available through the end of February.

Radon is present at elevated levels in about one of every five Connecticut homes. Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless, radioactive gas that is normally harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air, but can reach harmful levels when it enters and gets trapped in buildings, particularly in the winter months when homes and other buildings are closed up. Radon comes from the ground and can enter a home through small cracks and other openings in the foundation. Dissolved radon can occur naturally in groundwater and may be aerosolized into the air of a home when running faucets or showers, or even the dishwasher or washing machine. Elevated levels of radon in the water can raise the overall level of radon in the air of a home or other building. If radon is already present at elevated levels in the air, the addition of the aerosolized radon could cause the radon action level to be exceeded.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends radon abatement measures to be undertaken if indoor radon in air levels exceed 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Even if the radon test level is below the action level of 4.0 pCi/L, homeowners should consider testing again sometime in the future as radon levels can fluctuate. Retesting is particularly important if any construction work has been done which may have disturbed the soil around the home or created cracks in the foundation which could provide an entry point for radon. For radon in well water, the State of Connecticut has set an action level of 5,000 pCi/L and recommends that all wells be tested for radon at least once, and ideally every five years.

“We are pleased to offer a complete radon testing program (air/well water) to Greenwich residents. This program demonstrates the Department’s commitment to protect residents from a serious public health hazard. All residents are encouraged to test their homes for radon in both well water and air this winter. Testing homes for elevated levels of radon is simple and inexpensive even when grant funds to support the reduced-fee testing program are no longer available,” stated Director of Health Caroline Calderone Baisley.

To take advantage of the reduced fee for radon testing in air and/or well water, call the Department of Health Laboratory at 203-622-7843, starting Jan. 9. Radon testing kits for air and well water may be obtained from the Department’s Laboratory located on the ground floor of Town Hall during laboratory hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. A reduced fee of $32 will be charged for radon in air testing. Radon in air testing should be begun in the home the same day and the kit returned to the lab four days later, with results being reported by mail. A reduced fee of $40 will be charged for radon testing of well water, and customers will be notified of their results within a week of returning samples to the Lab. Households will be limited to one air and one well water test kit. Customers with elevated radon levels in air and/or well water will be referred to a list of state certified radon mitigation companies.

Doug Serafin, Director of the Division of Environmental Services Laboratory, states that, “Because you can’t see or smell radon, people tend to downplay its health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer in their homes. Over the past twelve years of radon testing, half of the homes tested in Greenwich had a radon in air level above the EPA action limit of 4.0 pCi/L. Radon, if discovered, can be remediated by qualified contractors inexpensively. The addition of testing well water for radon adds one more important diagnostic tool to identify another potential source of elevated radon in the air. No amount of radon in the air is risk-free.”

For more information on radon, radon testing and radon mitigation, call the Greenwich Department of Health Laboratory at 203-622-7843.

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