Homeowner Toni DeJonge can empathize with state officials who say it's difficult to convince people that colorless, odorless radioactive radon gas collecting in their homes can be deadly.
"I brought it up last year at the voting booths, and they laughed me out onto the street. They said, `don't be ridiculous, it's all a scam,' " said DeJonge. Tests conducted last year found that her home had radon levels 45 times the federal safety standard.DeJonge lives in the Whispering Hills development where tests Sept. 30 found 60 of 75 homes had radon levels above the federal safety standard. One home had levels 800 times greater then the federal standard, possibly the highest ever recorded in a house, officials said Thursday.
Officials believe the gas in Clinton Township, a rural community about 40 miles west of New York City, rises through the ground from the Reading Prong, a formation of uranium-bearing rock that extends from Pennsylvania into New York. Radon is produced by the radioactive decay of uranium.
Health officials say radon is second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer deaths.
Last year, DeJonge installed a simple ventilation system in her basement for $950 to alleviate the radon problem, and she became the town radon crier.
She gave up after consistently meeting with derision from neighbors who thought it was a hoax perpetrated by the burgeoning radon remediation industry.
The federal standard for radon is 4 picocuries, a unit of radiation measurement. The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that level is the annual equivalent of smoking one-half pack of cigarettes a day or having 200 to 300 chest X-rays.
One house tested by the state Department of Environmental Protection in the Whispering Hills development registered 3,500 picocuries. State officials said the unidentified homeowner was having the problem corrected.
State officials canvassed the neighborhood last weekend, urging residents to place charcoal-filled canisters in their basements to test for the gas.
But at many homes, they met with slammed doors, suspicion, reluctance or skepticism. Others said they have tested but put off having work done to lower radon levels because they distrust what may be hype.