January is National Radon Action Month

    Luciana Liu from O’Malley Elementary School in Anchorage won 1st place for the Alaska Radon Poster Contest back in fall of 2022. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Athey)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Radon is a colorless, odorless cancer-causing gas that is commonly found in Alaska.

    Jennifer Athey manages the Alaska Radon Program. She is also the chief of the Geologic Hazard Section at the Geological and Geophysical Surveys, a division of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

    She gave a background on the program.

    "Radon is a naturally occurring, colorless, odorless radioactive gas that originates from certain types of rock, with uranium, found commonly throughout Alaska and the United States. Radon enters buildings through cracks and gaps in the foundation, where it tends to collect and concentrate indoors, especially when buildings are sealed against cold winter temperatures. Radon is only detectable through specific air testing, and the Alaska Radon Program recommends all Alaskans test their homes."

    She said it is a collaborative project with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys and the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Cooperative Extension Service.

    "The U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, has a state Indoor Radon Grant program that gives money to states annually to conduct outreach and get the word out to residents about radon. The Alaska Radon Program is funded by this grant to Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Air Quality. It's implemented through a partnership of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which is my office- the division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service."

    The EPA has been giving funding to states, and particularly in Alaska, since the early 1980s.

    It's been about 30 years since a big comprehensive survey was done in Alaska and across the country.

    With homes closed up during the winter, January is a good time to test for the gas.

    "January is a good month to test your home because homes are closed up for the winter and our heaters are running. That means that when the warm air is going up and out at the tops of our houses, it can create a negative pressure that actually pulls ground gases like radon into our homes. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and an under-recognized health hazard in Alaska. However, we don't have to live with radon. Radon test kits are inexpensive. Right now during National Radon Action month, our program is giving free test kits away to the public."

    To request a free radon testing kit, fill out the online questionnaire.

    While supplies last, test kits may be picked up in person in Anchorage and Fairbanks or mailed across the state.

    The Alaska Radon Program also holds an annual poster contest- entries were submitted on November 15th, 2022.

    The 1st place winner of the Alaska Radon Poster Contest was Luciana Liu from O’Malley Elementary School in Anchorage, with second place going to Lucy Roush of Randy Smith Elementary School in Fairbanks.

    The students received prizes that included gift certificates to an arts and crafts store. Liu’s winning poster has also been entered in the National Radon Poster Contest to be judged this month.

    Above: Roush's 2nd place poster. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Athey.)

    For more information about radon testing or home repairs, visit the DGGS “Radon in Alaska” webpage, or call the Alaska Radon Hotline at 1-800-478-8324.

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