The Oregonian reports on new tests suggesting that one in four Portland homes has radon levels above health risk levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
As the Oregon Field Guide episode above explains, radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It's the second leading cause of lung cancer and the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
The Columbia River Basin has a lot of granite containing uranium and thorium that produce radon naturally. The Missoula Floods blanketed certain areas in Portland with radon-generating debris. The Alameda Ridge area is well-known for having high radon levels as a result.
The new report from Portland State University geologist Scott Burns found high radon levels in other areas, too, including parts of Banks, Boring, Clackamas, Gladstone, Lake Oswego, Newberg, Sandy, Sauvie Island, Sherwood and Wilsonville. And across the state, radon levels were high in West Salem, Astoria, Milton Freewater and Myrtle Creek.
Experts say you can't just look at a map and tell whether you have a radon problem. You have to test for it, and they recommend that every home be tested. You can buy testing kits for around $30, and if radon levels are high inside your home, you can have system installed to mitigate the risks for between $1,000 and $2,000.
In the Portland metro area, you can also check your radon risk level by zip code.