Health & Education

Radon risk in Grand Ronde unknown

01.14.2015 Dean Rhodes Health & Wellness

A recent update of state data regarding radon risks in Oregon communities did not include any information from Grand Ronde, leaving the risk level for residents in the area unknown.

However, Grand Ronde residents, as well as those in other West Valley communities, are eligible to receive a free radon test kit since they live in zip codes where there were fewer than 20 test results. Residents can send an e-mail to to receive instructions on how to get a free test kit, which will be provided while supplies last.

Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible radioactive gas that comes up from the ground and is drawn into buildings, where it can build up to dangerous levels. Radon levels vary throughout Oregon depending on the underlying geology.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths annually in the United States, making it the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States.
According to the EPA’s website, any home may have a radon problem, including homes without basements.

The Oregon Radon Program collects radon test data from test kit manufacturers to gauge which areas of the state have the potential for high radon levels. The data then allows the Radon Program to identify areas where educational outreach efforts need to be focused.
The 2-year-old data was recently updated with additional test data from around the state.

One Yamhill County community, Dundee, was named as an area with a high radon risk. Meanwhile, communities closer to Grand Ronde were deemed to have less of a risk. Sheridan, which had six test results, was deemed to be at low risk, and Willamina, with five test results, was deemed to be at moderate risk. McMinnville, with 40 test results, also was deemed to have a moderate risk.
“The take-home message is that every home needs to be tested, regardless of where it is located,” said Brett Sherry, coordinator of the Radon Program at the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division. “You may have the only house on the block with elevated radon levels.”

The best time to test for radon is during the heating season, when windows and doors are closed. Test kits sell for between $15 and $25 at hardware and home improvement stores should the supply of free test kits run out.

“Radon has been detected in homes all across Oregon. The only way to know if your home has high radon levels is to test,” Sherry said.
Brian DeMarco, executive director of the Grand Ronde Tribal Housing Authority, said that testing of Tribal housing for radon gas levels has not been done in the past, but that the Housing Authority is in the process of obtaining test kits for all Tribal units.

For more information about radon levels in Oregon, visit the Radon Program website at, which lists radon test data by city and zip code. The site also includes information on radon testing and mitigation, or West Valley residents can call 971-673-0440 for more information.