Skagway’s Traditional Council recently performed a random sampling of radon tests around the municipality.
In early 2016, Tribal Administrator Sara Kinjo-Hischer said the Traditional Council performed a small indoor air quality test, in which participants could choose from a variety of things as prizes. One prize was a basket of cleaning products, one was a mold test and another prize was a radon test. Three of the participants opted for the radon tests. Of those three that took and used the tests, one home came back with results below the threshold of acceptability, one was right on the line and another home had levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold.
The results were interesting to Kinjo-Hischer and the Traditional Council.
“Because I don’t think a lot of people in Alaska think about radon that much,” Kinjo-Hischer said.
As a result of the results, the Traditional Council bought more radon kits, and just recently performed a larger sampling of tests at homes throughout Skagway.
“The EPA says one-in-three will have some sort of level that needs looking into,” Kinjo-Hischer said.
Four tests out of fourteen needed to be retested. Three of these retests were completed, with one test still pending at press time.
One of the three tests had levels poking above the threshold, and may need some action.
The Skagway School was the only business tested, and Kinjo-Hischer said it registered the lowest levels of radon out of all the buildings in the sample.
According to the EPA, radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that cannot be seen, smelt or tasted. It is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths every year, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Radon comes form the natural decay of uranium, which can be found in nearly all soils.
It moves up through the ground, and into a home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. It gets trapped inside houses both with and without basements.
A radon test costs around $10-25 on average.
“It’s not expensive at all,” Kinjo-Hischer said. “It’s fairly easy to do.”
Kinjo-Hischer said the test just needs to be placed in a well-used space, like a living room, and notes of the exact time it is opened, as well as the end time, should be recorded for accurate results.
“If you don’t have basements, you don’t really think about it [radon],” Kinjo-Hischer said. “But it doesn’t really matter, because you have crawlspaces, you have something that’s in contact with the ground for radon to seep up into your house, so it’s not just for people who have basements.”