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January 25, 2008
Radon? What's That Got to Do With Safety Training?

If there's a safety training topic you might never have dealt with before, this one might be it--radon safety. Why bother dealing with it now? Because January has been designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as National Radon Action Month. Here's some important information about radon and health that you can pass along to your employees.

What are the hazards? Radon is a naturally occurring gas. You can't see, smell, or taste it. Outdoors it's harmlessly dispersed in the air, but when it's trapped inside a building, it becomes a health problem. If high levels of radon are trapped in your home, for example, it could make your whole family sick. The main hazard of radon is lung cancer. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, radon is responsible for an alarming number of new cases of lung cancer every year. Perhaps the greatest danger of all is that most of your employees might have no knowledge of this hazard. Some of them may have never heard of radon, much less that it could be present in their homes and affect the health of their families.

Why It Matters...
  • Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall (smokers and nonsmokers).
  • According to the U.S. Surgeon General, radon claims the lives of over 20,000 Americans each year.
  • A simple, inexpensive test can warn of dangerous levels of radon in the home.
  • Most of your employees probably aren't even aware of the risk, or what to do about it.

What can employees do about radon? EPA and the Surgeon General urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes for radon. Testing for high levels of radon is simple and inexpensive. Radon test kits that meet EPA requirements are available at local hardware stores and home improvement stores, and many kits cost less than $25. If the test indicates dangerous levels of radon in a home, prompt action should be taken to correct the problem. This generally requires the services of an experienced professional contractor.

How can you and your workers get more information about radon? Log on to EPA's website at www.epa.gov/radon/nram/public.html. You can also call the agency's Washington, D.C. phone number 202-343-9370, or contact one of EPA's regional offices (see the blue pages of your phone book). The EPA website provides a state-by-state list of radon information programs. Some states maintain lists of private contractors available in the state, and some states even have state-run mitigation programs. There are also privately run national radon programs listed on the EPA website that can provide information about radon mitigation and can recommend qualified contractors.

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