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PONTIAC — A dangerous amount of cancer-causing radon gas has been found in several homes in Livingston County.

The Livingston County Environmental Association has received the results of radon tests that were done at homes across the county. The results show that nearly 75 percent of the homes surveyed had traces of radon over the recommended limit.

The free test kits were given to 165 homeowners, and about 60 test kits were returned to the association for analysis.

"It confirms what we suspected," association President Carolyn Gerwin said. "There is a lot of radon in the county."

The results mirror findings of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which show many area homes have high levels of radon.

"Their results are consistent with tests we have done in the past," IMEA spokeswoman Patti Thompson said. ""We recommend people have their homes tested, no matter where they live."

In the 1990s, the state tested about two dozen buildings in Livingston County, and about 80 percent of the tests showed excessive levels of radon.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that seeps into homes from the ground. It is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second-leading cause of lung cancer overall.

Radon levels differ from house to house, depending on the makeup of the earth below it and how the home is built. The gas is drawn from surrounding soil through a building by natural air exchange or powered ventilation systems.

The association worked with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to provide the free kits, which were evenly distributed to residents in cities and townships.

The state agency said Livingston County is among several area counties, including McLean, Ford, DeWitt, Tazewell and Logan, that have a high risk of radon.

"It has to do with the geological makeup of the land," Thompson said.

Gerwin said concerned residents should have their homes tested. Test range from $15 to $30 and are available at most home-improvement stores.

All the homes tested in Fairbury, Flanagan and Odell were over the limit. The highest levels were found in a home in rural Pontiac, and the lowest was in Pontiac.

Odell had the highest average reading, while Cullom had the lowest.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that homes with excessive radon levels should be modified with ventilation systems to remove radon. Nearly all of the homes tested had levels at which repairs are recommended.

"If you consider the risks and costs associated with getting lung cancer, radon abatement looks like a good investment," Gerwin said. ""Even if you canít afford an abatement system, you can try to avoid spending a lot of time in the basement."

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