PORTLAND - A new study has found high levels of radon - a potentially deadly gas - in unexpected areas across Oregon.
Portland State University geology professor Scott Burns and a team of students examined radon tests from 19,000 Oregon homes outside of the Portland metro area. They discovered areas that were once thought to be low in radon, were actually high.
The invisible gas comes from decaying uranium in the earth and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. The research found high levels areas like Astoria, Aurora and Silverton where one in every two houses tested high.
But Burns said the highest levels outside of Portland were found in parts of Salem.
“The radon potential in the Salem area is a lot higher than we thought before ... it's not only West Salem but it’s the 02 and the 06 in addition to the 04 zip codes we have down there,” said Burns.
Stephanie Lingmann grew up in Aurora and is raising her family there. She said this was the first she’d ever heard of a radon risk in her hometown and will now look into testing it.
“To keep my family safe ... yeah, that doesn't sound good,” she said.
You can buy do-it-yourself radon test kits at most hardware stores for under $20.
Burns said, one out of every four Portland area homes ranks high for radon, but elsewhere in the state that ratio is one out of every fifteen. Nationwide, one in every eight houses has high levels of radon.
KGW Reporter Keely Chalmers contributed to this report