A radon test kit.
SPRINGFIELD — Cold weather might put a damper on outdoor activities, but according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency it’s a great time to test your home for cancer-causing radon gas that has been found in nearly 40 percent of Illinois homes.
IEMA is encouraging people to test for radon during Radon Action Month in January.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. It can enter homes and buildings through small cracks in the foundation, sump pumps or soil in crawlspaces. Elevated levels of the radioactive gas have been found in all 102 Illinois counties.
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second-leading cause of lung cancer overall in the U.S. IEMA estimates nearly 1,200 Illinois citizens die from radon-related lung cancer each year.
“It’s best to test for radon under ‘closed house’ conditions, meaning your windows and doors are closed except for normal traffic in and out of doors,” IEMA Director Jonathon Monken said. “The winter months are a good time to conduct a radon test and find out if your home has high levels of radon.”
As part of Radon Action Month, IEMA also announced the launch of statewide poster and video contests that encourage students to use their creative talents to promote radon awareness.
The Illinois Radon Poster Contest is open to students ages 9-14. Entries are due by March 1. Prizes include $200 for first place, $150 for second place and $100 for third place. For more information about the poster contest, visit http://healthhouse.org/radon/il_poster.cfm.
High school students can compete for prizes by producing creative 60-second YouTube videos about radon and entering them in the statewide High School Radon Video Contest. Videos can be created by an individual student, group of students or classroom. Prizes include $1,000 for first place, $750 for second place, $500 for third place and $250 for seven honorable mention videos. In addition, the schools of the top three winners will receive $300, $200 and $100 for first, second and third places, respectively.
All videos, entry forms and release forms must be submitted by 5 p.m. March 5. Details about the video contest are available on the American Lung Association in Illinois website at www.healthhouse.org/radon/il_vidcontest.cfm.
Contest prizes are funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Both contests are sponsored by IEMA, ALAIL and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5.
The top posters and videos from the 2014 contests can be viewed on IEMA’s radon website at www.radon.illinois.gov. The website includes information about radon and lists of licensed measurement and mitigation professionals. Information is available through IEMA’s Radon Hotline at (800) 325-1245.