IEMA Director Monken Supports New IL. Radon Law
By Ellen Cannon
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause among non-smokers. It is estimated that nearly 1,200 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur each year in Illinois. On January 1, 2012 a new law, Public Act 97-0021, will go into effect in Illinois which will help people who rent apartments, condominiums or houses access information about radon levels in their homes.(www.illinois.gov12/30/11)
Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Jonathon Monkton, underscores the importance of this new law as well as offers basic guidelines and factual information to assist renters to understand and respond to radon hazards.
According to Monken, “About one-third of all housing in Illinois is rented.” Monken points out that it is important for renters to know about the law and their rights under the new law. He said, “This new law will help renters find out if their landlords have already tested for radon, and, if so, what levels were detected. For units where no testing has been done, we hope more renters will be proactive and get their homes tested.” According to Monken, “Radon is one health risk that can be easily reduced. Testing your home is the first important step,” according to Director Monken. (www.illinois.gov. 12/30/11)
Radon gas is created when natural occurring uranium in the soil decays. The gas in the form of radon then seeps through any access point in a home. Common entry points are cracks in the foundation, poorly sealed pipes, drainage or any other loose point. Once it is in a home, the gas will continue to break down into what is referred to as “radon decay products.” These decay products can be breathed in and stay in the lungs. The environmental Protection Agency of the U.S. Government has set a threshold of 4 Pico curies per liter as the safe level. As humans are exposed to the gas over a period of years, it can have a significant and detrimental health effect. (www.4uhomeinc.com/Radon.html)
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) recommends that rental units below the third floor be tested for radon. Public Act 97-0021, “requires owners of rental units to inform renters in writing before a lease is signed if the rental space has been tested for radon and that a radon hazard may exist. If the rental unit has not been tested, a renter can conduct a do-it-yourself radon test or ask the owner to test by hiring a licensed radon contractor. If a renter conducts a radon test in the rental unit and results show high radon levels, the renter should inform the building owner in writing.” (www.enewspf.com12/30/11)
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) emphasizes that high radon levels can be reduced with a properly installed radon reduction system and recommend that the building owner hire an IEMA licensed radon contractor to perform the work.
Dr. Arnold Herskovic, a radiation oncologist at Chicago’s Rush Medical Center has had past experience treating patients with lung cancer and some past exposure to the radon problem. At that time that he tested his home radon exposure kits were available through a grant at the University of Pittsburg. He states “that the efforts to reduce the carcinogenic risks are worth the inconvenience of testing and making ones’ home safer.”