Radon claims more than 20,000 lives annually and is the second-leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. and the leading cause among non-smokers.

Radon is a natural radioactive gas that we can’t see, smell or taste but could be present at a dangerous level in our homes. It can be present in water or air. Radon gas is prevalent in the northeast and it is important that people test the radon level in their homes, as recommended by the U.S. surgeon general

A simple test can determine if a home has an elevated radon level. Self-test kits are available at home improvement stores or online and cost about $20. If the results of the short-term test are too high, a follow-up test should be conducted to confirm the results.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that homes with high radon levels be repaired.

The cost of repairs to reduce the radon level depends on several factors, including how the home was built. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs such as installing a hot water heater.

If radon levels are elevated, a radon mitigator can be found online, in the telephone book or by calling the state radon office. For more information, visit www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/rad/radon/hp-radon.htm or www.epa.gov/radon/index.html.

Madeline OrangeLitchfield