By Anya Bochman
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first declared January to be Radon Action Month in 1999; this tradition continues with Governor Phil Murphy’s office and a number of state municipalities. The program is designed to coincide with a national initiative dedicated to promoting radon awareness, testing and mitigation, as well as radon resistant new construction.
Pompton Lakes is one of the boroughs that will be participating in the initiative; on January 4, Mayor Michael Serra announced that Pompton Lakes will cooperate with the NJDEP Radon Section in a special radon awareness program to promote testing for the radioactive gas in homes.
“We are pleased to cooperate with the DEP in this program to ensure that all residents are aware of the need to test homes and reduce radon levels where necessary,” Serra stated. “Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. Radon testing is easy and problems can be fixed.”
The reason behind the choice of month is that the winter season, with its use of heating, is the most opportune time for radon testing and detection. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally when uranium breaks down in the soil and in rock formations. Small amounts of uranium are found in nearly all soils and rocks. Radon gas moves up through the soil and finds its way into homes through cracks in the foundation and openings around sump pumps, pipes and drains.
Long term or chronic exposure to radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the second-leading cause of lung cancer among smokers, according to the EPA. The greater the concentration and the longer a person is exposed, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer.
Although there is truly no safe level of radon, since lung cancer can result from very low exposures, studies have found that the risk does go down as the radon concentration decreases. Both the NJDEP and the EPA recommend that a home be mitigated if its test results indicate radon levels of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of radon or higher.
“Homeowners who tested in the past and found low levels of radon may wish to retest to determine if radon concentrations may have changed, due to changes in air flow within the house from new additions or other renovations, or due to new construction nearby that may have caused changes in local geology,” said Mary Ann Orapello, Wayne Township Health Officer.
Since Pompton Lakes has a limited number of free test kits, they will be available to residents on a first-come, first-served basis. Individuals wishing to obtain free radon testing kits may do so through the borough’s health department by calling 973-835-0143, extension 235.
In addition to the test kits provided by the Borough of Pompton Lakes, the DEP’s Radon Section – which can be accessed by calling 1-800-648-0394 or visiting www.njradon.org – can provide a list of state-certified companies that provide testing services or do-it-yourself test kits, as well as companies that offer radon remediation services.