In 2004, South Lake Tahoe resident Jim Miner purchased a pair of devices to test his home for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and prevalent in the Sierra Nevada. His test showed radon levels were 50 percent above the safe limit in his home."I just thought to myself, how could I have lived in a house for 24 years with high radon levels and not know about it?" said Miner, who is now the owner of the area's only Radon testing company, Radon at Tahoe. "Why hasn't this been a bigger priority for both California and Nevada?"
On Wednesday, Miner gave a lecture about the dangers posed by radon and what local residents can do to mitigate it at Sierra Nevada College's Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences."We had heard there was a problem in the Tahoe Basin with radon... and just wanted to find out more about it and how to do the testing," said Incline Village resident Lynn Whetstone, who attended the lecture.Radon exists in especially high concentrations in granitic soil, making it of special concern for residents of Incline.
Historical data indicates that more than half the homes in the basin have elevated levels of radon. The 1991 survey showed Zephyr Cove had the highest concentrations in the state.Though benign in the open air, radon can reach harmful levels when it becomes trapped indoors and is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA estimates the elevated radon levels in homes poses the same risk as smoking 280 packs of cigarettes a day.
In order to help local residents test their homes, the Washoe County District Health Department is sponsoring free workshops at the county's library branches, one of which will be held at the Incline Village Library 4 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 1."(Radon) is something that I'm personally interested in and have always wanted to pursue as far as my own family's health is concerned," said outreach program and youth services librarian Amy Levy. "When (the health department) contacted me, I was very interested hoped the community would ... attend."The county will provide free radon test kits at the workshop. More information is available through the Washoe County Air Quality Management Division at (775) 784-7200. Radon at Tahoe can be reached at (530) 577-7293.The Bonanza News Service's Adam Jensen contributed to this report.