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The holidays are officially over, and now is the time to catch up on all of the things you had to push aside. The Cayuga County Health Department is here to remind you that January is Radon Action Awareness Month. Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can be a big threat to your health. While going out and getting a radon test kit may not have been the first thing on your to-do list, now is the perfect time.

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that can enter your home or apartment in a number of ways. Radon is a carcinogen, which means that it causes cancer. When we think of lung cancer, it is likely that radon doesn’t come to mind, but exposure to this gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States next to smoking. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is expected that exposure to this gas kills 21,000 people each year. Because radon cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, most people are unaware that it is in their home. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure that you and your family are safe from the danger of radon.

Radon gas can leak into your home or apartment through cracks in your basement or slab, the dirt floor in your crawl space or openings around your sump pump. Any home can have high radon levels, whether it is old or new or has a basement or a slab. This gas accumulates in enclosed areas, which makes it of special concern during colder months when homes are getting little fresh air. This makes late fall and winter the best time of year to test for radon.

The EPA and the state Department of Health have designated Cayuga County as a high-risk radon county. This is due to the fact that many residences have already been shown to have high levels of radon. Due to this, Cayuga County Health Department is encouraging all residents to test their homes for radon. To make this easy, we are providing free radon test kits at a number of locations. These kits are available for all residents of Cayuga County. Test kits are available at the office of the Cayuga County Health Department, at 8 Dill St. in Auburn, but can also be picked up at the following locations:

• Sennett Town Hall, 6931 Cherry St., Sennett

• Aurora Free Library, 370 Main St., Aurora

• Springport Free Library, 171 Cayuga St., Union Springs

• Port Byron Library, 12 Sponable Drive, Port Byron

• Seymour Library, 176 Genesee St., Auburn

• Powers Library, 29 Church St., Moravia

If you prefer to purchase a kit for whatever reason, they can be found at most local home improvement stores.

If your home does test high for radon, there are repairs that can be made to fix the problem. Making the necessary improvements is a small price to pay for the health of yourself and your loved ones. In fact, according to the EPA, most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs.

For more information on radon, you can visit the Environmental Protection Agency website at epa.gov/radon. If elevated radon levels are found in your home, the Cayuga County Health Department can provide you with information on how to reduce these levels.

If you are concerned about other threats to home safety, you are encouraged to take advantage of the Healthy Neighborhoods Program. This program provides free carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, as well as other health and safety items. Residents in Auburn as well as residents in Locke and Moravia are eligible for this program. Call the Cayuga Community Health Network at (315) 252-4212 to schedule a home assessment today! The Healthy Neighborhoods Program is administered by Cayuga County Health Department through the Cayuga Community Health Network, paid for by a grant from the state Department of Health.

Let the health department help you put your mind at ease, and keep your home safe and healthy!

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Kimberly Abate is the senior public health educator for the Cayuga County Health Department and the coordinator for the Cayuga County Cancer Services Program.

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