Did you know that January is National Radon Action Month? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Surgeon General wants to encourage everyone to test their homes for radon. One in fifteen homes in the U.S. has high radon levels.

The winter months are a perfect time to do the testing for all our windows are shut providing the ideal environment for testing.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer; smoking is number one. If you smoke and you have high levels of Radon you have an even greater risk for developing lung cancer. Radon is a gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It enters our homes through cracks and opening in the foundations of our homes. It is found all over the U.S. and can get into any type of building. However, we are most at risk in our home because that is where we spend most of our time.

Radon Testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon test company. One myth is that a neighbor's test result would be similar to yours. That is not true. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home.

Radon testing involves setting up closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the test and during the test which usually runs 4-7 days. Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside Your heating and cooling systems are allowed to operate normally during the test. Make sure that the radon tester can provide information that the testing conditions were not violated during the testing period. If your level is above 4 pCi/L you need to fix your home.

A temporary solution to lowering your Radon level is sealing cracks in your foundation. The permanent solution is getting a subslab depressurization system. This system consists of PVC piping and a special fan to collect and transport soil gases from under your foundation and exhaust them above the roof eave.

Radon Test Kits can be purchased for $12 from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Lung Association (www .alact.org). To get a list of qualified Radon test companies and qualified contractors to fix a radon problem go to the Department of Public Health website at www .dph.ct.us and look under Programs and Services and then Radon Program where you will find a list of professionals in the Radon Professionals section.

Radon can also enter homes through drinking water supplies. Radon can then enter the air from the water we use for showering, cooking or other water uses. Water from private wells often contain higher levels of radon than public water. It is still not clear in the scientific world what the risk of cancer is when radon is ingested. Since the higher risk is from the air make sure you first do a Radon Test of your air. If you have public water call your water supplier for the results of radon testing. If you have a private well call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 for information on testing your water.

Happy Radon Testing.

Melanie Kier is the founder and president of the BOW Environmental Action Club