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Radon: a silent killer

Take precautions to protect yourself against cancer-causing gas

The news is getting out about high radon levels in West Linn, and residents are starting to do something about it.

But many more need to do something about the possible invisible, odorless, cancer-causing gas seeping into their homes. They need to be more like John Cupparo, who has had a home in the Salamo-Rosemont area for eight years.

'I had heard about the potential dangers of radon,' Cupparo said. 'My next-door neighbor, who was selling his house, said it was a good idea to have my house tested, so I did. The radon level was not super high, but it was there.'

It was Steve Tucker, owner of Cascade Radon, Inc., who placed the pipes in Cupparo's home, and now radon gas is sent out into the air, not trapped inside the house. Tucker, who was first certified by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1991, has been extremely busy in the West Linn-Lake Oswego area because it has one of the highest radon levels in the entire Pacific Northwest. The reasons for this go way back.

'It started when the Missoula Flood washed soils down on Lake Oswego and West Linn,' Tucker said. 'They were biblical-sized floods, and they deposited a lot of soil.'

Radon gas is treacherous. Not only because is it odorless and invisible but because any level above 2 picocuries per liter in the air of a house can be dangerous. It is also entirely unpredictable.

'The radon level can literally be different from house to house,' Tucker said. 'Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas from uranium in soil and rocks. If too much radon is breathed in for too long, it results in lung cancer.'

There is one giveaway with radon.

Tucker said, 'Alpha particles from radon cause physical dents in the lungs. That is something you can grasp.'

There is one solution -testing. Still, even though Tucker said awareness of radon is 'has snowballed,' there too much ignoring of this dangerous gas.

'Everyone should test,' said Tucker. 'As more data comes in, we're finding more areas with elevated levels of radon. Testing for radon is like preventive medicine.

'It's amazing how many people stick their heads in the sand when it comes to testing for radon.'

John Cupparo is glad he is not one of them.

'Testing for radon is maybe something you think you should do, but then you never follow up,' Cupparo said. 'But it's cheap and easy to do. I've been telling my neighbors and other people about it. It's a good idea.'

The EPA lists radon as the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. The agency reported in January that radon caused 21,000 deaths due to lung cancer in the United States in 2011.

For more information about radon, visit www.cascaderadon.com. Testing for radon can cost as little as $15.



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