The Radon Risk in Nevada: Higher Than Average - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

The Radon Risk in Nevada: Higher Than Average

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An aggressive non-smoking related lung cancer is killing more than 20,000 Americans every year. The main cause is an odorless, colorless gas called radon, and it’s a health threat in northern Nevada.

Paula Smail is one of our many newcomers. As she told us, "I wanted a place that had backpacking, hiking…and the water at Lake Tahoe." She found her house in Sparks three years ago. But then she discovered what’s lurking underground: high levels of radon. "A neighbor in this community had his home tested and said 'yes,' so he is doing the remediation." 

Paula noticed the big cracks in her basement, releasing radon into her house. Her first radiation test came out high…a 7.9. She checked with the EPA: "They suggest anything over a 2.0 reading that you mitigate the home for it."

If you live in a house with high radon, it can fill your lungs with radiation, and damage your DNA. People have died from what's called non-smoking lung cancer, sometimes within a month of first feeling sick. As Claudene Wharton of the University of Nevada’s Cooperative Extension told us, "Radon is a radioactive gas that is naturally occurring in our grounds and soils."

A breakdown product of uranium, it seeps up and lives in our houses. As a state, Nevada ranks high for this top environmental cause of cancer deaths. Nevada Radon Education program director Susan Howe told us, “In Washoe County, 21% of the homes tested have had a radon problem."

The highest radon reading in the state, a whopping 195, was found in Reno. Verdi, Washoe Valley and Stateline are other hot spots.

How do you fix the problem? Ventilating the soil, and installing an outlet to get radon out of your house. You can start, like Paula did, by picking up a free test kit that you place in your home. Paula showed us where she put hers: "It was literally right by my bed at the proper height, and then the other rule is you don't disturb the test, and you leave it there for three days."

Susan says if you don't test for radon, you essentially have a cigarette smoking room in your basement. "A radon problem can happen in any area. It doesn't care what zip code you live in."

Back in Sparks, Paula will set up the system that will prevent radon from building up in her home. After that? "Then I'll probably decide I don't want to work anymore on a house and I'll sell it!”

The University of Nevada’s Cooperative Extension has an extensive radon resource. To find out more about the free radon tests, (January-February 2017 only) and to check out the maps of where the Nevada hot spots are, click the link - http://www.unce.unr.edu/programs/sites/radon/

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