Are You Being Poisoned by Radon Gas?

Take a drag and inhale the news ... starting in 2012 Maine will be the first state to require that landlords test for radon, a dangerous gas that causes lung cancer. The hotly contested law was passed earlier this summer.

If you've ever given up smoking you know it sucks: you gain weight, you get cranky, and suddenly you can't imagine yourself as star of a Fellini film anymore.

After all the suffering required to give up the smokes it'd be a real kick to your newly-whitened teeth if your apartment gives you lung cancer.

Let's hope the landlord-testing requirement becomes a national trend. After all, it's a lot healthier for everyone.

So if cigarettes are evil, what's the deal with radon?

Radon gas is an odorless, radioactive gas created by the decay of uranium in water, soil or rock. Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking. It naturally occurs in every state and poses significant cancer risk, particularly if you are a current or former smoker.

Radon gas poisons old buildings as well as brand-new construction. Some have even feared that their granite counter tops were off-gassing radon. Any apartment can be at risk.

Here's a checklist, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency, to determine if you have a radon problem in your apartment and what to do about it.

  • Find out whether the building you live in has been tested for radon.
  • If your building has not been tested for radon, ask the building owner or landlord to test, or test your own apartment or rental house.
  • Follow the instructions included in your radon test kit. If your short-term test shows radon levels above 4 pCi/L, EPA recommends doing a follow-up test.
  • If your test shows radon levels above 4 pCi/L, notify the building owner of the test results in writing. Discuss with the owner the need for additional testing and radon reduction repairs.
  • If you have high radon levels or if you need additional information and assistance about radon testing and radon repairs, contact your state radon office, the National Radon Helpline or other organizations that work on radon or housing issues.
Click here to read the EPA's report, A Radon Guide for Tenants.

P.S. Hard as it is, quitting smoking is totally worth it. You can still keep the stiff martini and the hot clothes.

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