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January is Radon Awareness Month and a Good Time to Test Your Home

The Greater Somerset Public Health Partnership (GSPHP), New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Regional Chronic Disease/Cancer Coalition (RCDC) of Morris and Somerset counties are partnering to recognize January as Radon Awareness Month.  A proclamation will be signed by the Somerset County Board of Freeholders in January.

Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that occurs naturally in soil. It is released from the natural decay of the elements uranium, thorium and radium, and occurs in higher concentrations in certain areas of the state, including Somerset County.  

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer  in the United States.  Radon is associated with 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States.

For smokers, the risk of developing lung cancer is increased dramatically if they also are exposed to excess radon. According to the RCDC, lung and bronchus cancers are the No. 1 cause of cancer-related fatalities in Somerset County. 

Radon does not cause any immediate symptoms, such as asthma or respiratory problems. Testing for radon is the only way to know if a home has elevated radon levels. 

“Somerset County is committed to increasing awareness about lung cancer,” said Freeholder Mark Caliguire, public health and safety liaison. “It’s important that residents decrease exposure to radon to reduce the incidence of lung cancer; go for cancer screenings so that problems can be identified at earlier, less dangerous stages; and understand the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke.”

 “In an effort to reduce the risk of exposure to radon gas, residents are urged to test their homes,” said Cinthia Weaver, Health Officer of Branchburg and GSPHP president.  “It’s not uncommon to find that homes on the same block will have different test results. Even if your neighbor’s home is not affected by radon gas, it does not mean that your home is in an acceptable range.”

To enable Somerset County residents to test their homes, one radon kit per household will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for $10 at various locations throughout Somerset County,” said Ms. Weaver. 

Residents may pick up radon kits at the following locations while supplies last: Bernards Township Health Department, 262 S. Finley Ave., Basking Ridge; Branchburg Township Health Department, 34 Kenbury Road; Bridgewater Township Health Department, 100 Commons Way; Montgomery Township Health Department, 2261 Route 206, Belle Mead; Somerset County Health Department, 27 Warren St., Somerville; and Middle Brook Regional Health Commission, 46 Mountain Blvd., Warren.

Residents should call beforehand to ensure availability of kits. For more information about radon testing or mitigation, contact your local health department. A listing of health department contacts is available at www.co.somerset.nj.us/health/localhealth.htm

The RCDC also is offering radon kits to non-profit group homes. Nonprofits are asked to call for details.

Additionally, the RCDC is striving to further reduce exposure for youth to second-hand smoke by encouraging and educating municipalities on the benefits of adopting ordinances to keep county parks smoke-free. Several county-owned parks and towns have already begun this process and serve as role models for the rest of the county. Towns with smoke-free parks include Far Hills, Warren, Manville and Somerville.

An information display will be set up at both the county administration building, located at 20 Grove St., and the county Human Services Building, located at 27 Warren St., in Somerville, from Jan. 4 to 30.  The public is invited to help themselves to literature about radon and lung cancer.

For more information on these projects or to become a Regional Chronic Disease/Cancer Coalition member, learn about cancer education or screenings, contact Lucille Young-Talbot, RCDC Coordinator at ytalbot@co.somerset.nj.us or call (908) 203-6077.