Casco office tests positive for radon

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The Casco Town Office, located behind the fire station on Route 121, tested positive for unsafe levels of radon recently, according to Town Manager Dave Morton.

However, the town staff won’t be setting up office in the parking lot or another radon-free location anytime soon. After all, it is possible to negate the presence of radon in homes and public buildings, he said.

The numbers for levels of radon “came out higher than acceptable for people to be in a building,” Morton said Tuesday during the Casco Board of Selectman meeting.

“Fortunately, radon is something that can be easily mitigated. We won’t have to abandon the office building,” he said.

He did not elaborate on actions that could be taken to mitigate the radon, although during discussions with the selectmen, an air-exchange system was mentioned.

According to Wikipedia, radon is “a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless gas.”

The radioactivity is produced by the natural decay of other radioactive materials such as uranium and thorium. These materials, or elements, exist naturally in the earth.

Radon “has a half-life of 3.8 days,” and “is considered a health hazard due to its radioactivity,” Wikipedia said. Radon exposure has been strongly linked to lung cancer — with cigarette smoking as the most common cause, the website said.

Morton said the maximum measurement for safe radon levels is 4; and the town offices measured 4.4.

Nelson Analytical Labs in Manchester, N.H., reviewed the air samples collected from the town office building.

“What the test did was to say, ‘Hey, we may have some problems here,’ ” Morton said. “It warrants further examination.”

The next step for the town will be to hire someone to professionally test radon levels. Also, other town-owned buildings will be checked for radon, he said.

In addition, Morton recommended that residents have their homes tested for radon.

“It is an issue that can create health issues long-term for folks,” he said. “The air test is simple for homeowners and can be mailed off.”

The town used a cup that collected air samples; and then, samples were shipped to a testing lab, he said.

“The office building had never been tested before,” he said. However, other public buildings have undergone radon testing.

“Radon is a common occurrence in all the rock, gravel and granite in this area,” he said. He added it was common in deep wells; therefore, higher levels of radon are frequently found in kitchens and bathroom, where well water is piped into a structure.

“It’s a real common issue in this area,” Morton said, “which has a great big bowl of granite surrounding Sebago Lake.”

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