It’s that time of year again.

No, not the time grocery stores put out the Christmas items way too early. It’s time for the Wyoming Department of Health’s annual radon awareness poster contest.

Students in grades three through nine are invited to sharpen their crayons and colored pencils. (Although in this day and age, they’re more likely to fire up their computer and Adobe Illustrator.) Young artists have until Dec. 20 to create a poster that educates the public about radon.

For those youngsters — or adults — who may not know about radon, here are the basics: Radon is a colorless, tasteless gas released by the breakdown of uranium, a radioactive material, in soil. In Teton County, 41.6% of homes tested for radon have high levels, according to the Teton County Health Department, with the average reading of 7.2 picocuries per liter of air.

The Environmental Protection Agency has set the safe level for radon in homes at no more than 4 picocuries per liter.

Exposure to radon can damage the cells that line the lungs and cause lung cancer. According to EPA estimates, 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year are due to radon exposure.

The poster contest educates kids and raises adults’ awareness of the gas. The artwork must address one of five topics (see sidebar) and cannot have the student’s name on the front or use any copyrighted characters.

Entries will be judged in two groups — grades three through six, and grades seven through nine — and winners in each group will receive $200 for first place and $100 for second.

See Health.Wyo.gov or the contest rules attached to the online version of this story for information.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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