BANGOR — The giveaway of radon testing kits to city residents is going well, but health inspector Meaghen Condon is a little disappointed in the follow-through. Only about a dozen of the 100 people receiving the kits in recent months have actually used them and mailed them in to be read.
“They’re all gung-ho about doing it, but they take it home and forget it,” said Condon, who works in the the code enforcement department at City Hall.
She promotes the testing all the time, and especially during October, which the City Council has recognized as Indoor Air Quality Action and Awareness Month.
Condon said it’s important that people learn about radon — the colorless and odorless gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in rock, soil and water.
The gas can enter the home through cracks in concrete slabs or blocks, through floor-wall joints or mortar joints, through exposed soil, through weeping drain tiles and through building materials, such as rocks. Radon is also present in the water of some wells.
What people really need to know, and what usually gets their attention, she said, is the term carcinogen. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, runner-up only to cigarette smoke.
Last January, the council passed a resolve urging people to test their homes, and also went on record supporting new construction that is resistant to radon.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is becoming “very vocal about this being a problem,” Condon said. She said of the gas, “When you breathe it in, it gets into your lungs and affects your lungs.”
Causing about 14,000 deaths annually in this country, radon kills more people every year than drowning or fires.
The city has been giving away free test kits since July, and has about 100 left for Bangor residents, Condon said. The kits include information on radon, she said.
“If you don’t have a clue about radon, you can read that,” she said. “It’s pretty straightforward.”
The testing involves placing the kit in the lowest lived-in level of the home for a few days, with the windows shut. The kits may be purchased at hardware stores.
Each kit comes with a mailer so the air sample can be sent to a laboratory for testing. The results are sent directly to the homeowner, Condon explained.
The city also gets the results, but without the name or address.
The EPA has established a level of less than 4 picocuries of radon as safe. Condon said the dozen results the city has received in recent months have been for homes all in the safe level.
The EPA has a list of companies certified to work on buildings to correct radon problems, she said.
Condon, whose job also includes activities such as inspecting restaurants and reminding homeowners to take care of items not taken during spring cleanup, said that radon is certainly not the only concern for air quality.
Carbon monoxide and combustible gases are a concern, too, she said. With winter coming on, Condon urges people to have their furnaces cleaned and checked.
Last winter’s ice storm brought up another concern. Many people bought gas-fueled generators to provide heat or electricity, and there were several instances of carbon monoxide poisoning — a few of them fatal — in homes where generators were operated indoor.
Condon said that generators should never be operated inside the home or basement — only outside or in a garage with the door open.
For information on radon and testing, call Meaghen Condon at 945-4400, or call 1-800-SOS-RADON.