Testing for lung cancer-causing gas makes good sense

Testing for radon levels in your home is a good idea.

It is such a good idea that it could save your life in Lake Oswego.

Steve Tucker, founder of Cascade Radon Inc., has pointed out that the Lake Oswego area has some of the highest levels of radon in the Pacific Northwest.

'In Lake Oswego, some houses are very porous,' said Tucker. 'Some houses have tested for 500 picocuries per liter (of air). Testing for radon and installing mitigation systems for radon has been my passion for a long time.'

The possibility of having a high level of radon in your home is easy to ignore. Radon, a naturally produced radioactive gas, cannot be seen and has no odor. In addition, the soil and rocks that make up the foundation of houses can have remarkably differing levels of radon. A house that tests at a dangerous level can be located right next to a house in no danger of radon poisoning at all.

Yet the Environmental Protection Agency reports that radon is the No.1 reason for lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in the United States. Last year 21,000 people died of lung cancer due to radon poisoning.

'It happens too much,' Tucker said. 'Everyone should test for radon in their homes.'

People who test for radon are glad they did, especially if their decisions were due to sheer luck. Lake Oswego residents Herb Koss and Anne Jaeger come under that category.

Koss borrowed a friend's radon testing equipment, although he didn't think he really needed to. He was wrong.

'I found that my house had a level of 32.5, and it shouldn't be more than 2,' said Koss, who lives at the west end of Oswego Lake. 'I reset it and got a level of 30. I thought, 'I've got a problem.' '

Koss's next step was to contact Tucker to install a mitigation system that would force radon to flow outside.

'I was thinking I would get a bill for $4,000 to $6,000,' Koss said. 'Instead my total bill was $2,200 and my radon level dropped below the minimum overnight. I was shocked. In 24 hours I was safe.

'If you get the wrong contractor you can get shafted. I was lucky. I got the right contractor.'

Now, Koss is a passionate advocate for radon level testing.

'The bottom line is that radon is a problem in Lake Oswego,' he said. 'A lot of people may have a problem and don't know it.'

Jaeger's story of how she came to test for radon in her home is remarkable. It was like a joke that turned into a shock but ultimately had a happy ending. The idea for testing was planted several years ago, when Jaeger read a story in the Lake Oswego Review about a woman whose husband died of lung cancer due to radon. The man had lived near Jaeger's neighborhood in Lake Grove

'I was working for a TV station at the time, and I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles,' Jaeger said. 'He wanted to give me a radon kit, but I didn't take one with me. As a joke, he sent me one. I said, 'OK, fine, I'll use it.''

Some joke. Jaeger's kit indicated her home had a radon level of 14, which was a bit high. So she sent for Tucker to do some more definite testing. The result was stunning.

'He found a level of 500, which was the highest ever found on the West Coast up to that time,' Jaeger said. 'Steve said there was a Harry Potter wind tunnel under my house. There was a big gush of air coming up from the bowels of the earth into my house.'

This was a challenge that seemed too big even for the much-experienced Tucker.

'Usually such problems are very easy fixes, but mine wasn't,' Jaeger said, 'Steve said, 'I've got to figure it out.' It took him years but he did it. A lot of contractors would have thrown up their hands, but Steve just kept working on it. Now the radon level in my house is very low.'

Jaeger, who had a bad bout with cancer in 2000, was tested for the disease in December of last year. She was found to be cancer free, and she now feels fine.

Jaeger is now a woman with a message: 'Please test your houses.'

For more about Tucker's business and radon, go to .

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