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Release Date: 10/16/1996
Contact Information: Frank McIntyre, Office of External Programs, (617)918-1095

Tobacco smoke, the leading cause of lung cancer, when viewed as a health threat has its up sides - you can see it, smell it, and sometimes even taste it. These physical properties at least warn of the presence of tobacco smoke and make it somewhat possible to avoid.

Radon provides no such early warning signals. You can't see it, smell it, or taste it. But it's very much a health risk. Recent studies have estimated radon to be the cause of 14,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. each year - that's more than the number of deaths caused by drownings, fire, and airline crashes combined. Radon is also responsible for 30 percent of lung cancers among nonsmokers. The week of October 20 has been designated Radon Action Week to draw attention to the seriousness of this invisible health threat.

There is only one way to know if you are at risk from radon - testing. Because radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water, it is found all over the country and in any type of building - homes, offices, and schools. But because people spend most of their time at home, that is where they encounter the greatest risk and where an easy and inexpensive test should be conducted.

A recent study has shown the New England states to be among the top nationally in awareness of radon and testing for it. Although 85 percent of the New England population is aware of radon, less than 20 percent have tested for it, and only about 3 percent of those who found high levels of radon have taken action to reduce those levels. We need to improve those numbers. EPA's national target by the year 2005 calls for 27 million radon tests, 1 million mitigations, and one and a half million homes built with radon resistant features. Meeting that target will result in an estimated 500 fewer cancer deaths per year.

Clearly the threat from radon calls for action. Test your home for radon so you'll know if you need to take action to reduce the level. Testing your home costs as little as $20 with a "do-it-yourself" radon test kit available in hardware stores or retail outlets. More information on testing your home is available from the national radon hotline - (800)SOS-RADON.

If the test reveals high levels of radon, confirm with another test and fix the problem. High levels of radon can be readily lowered with straightforward, cost-effective, and often inexpensive, measures.

For more information on radon, contact the national radon hotline or your state radon office:

CT - (860)509-7367

ME - (800)232-0842

MA - (800)RADON 95

NH - (800)852-3345 ext. 474

RI - (401)277-2438

VT - (800)640-0601