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The state Health Department will begin phasing out its 3-year-old radon gas program beginning New Year's Day because funding is running out, agency officials said Friday.

Starting Tuesday, the Health Department will no longer distribute free radon-testing kits but will instead charge for them, said Karim Rimawi, head of the agency's Bureau of Environmental Radiation Protection.

The agency will continue to offer a telephone hot line to answer queries about the cancer-causing gas and other environmental hazards.

Rimawi said the program was scheduled to end because the $2.7 million originally allocated for it is running out. He said it was coincidence that the phaseout comes as New York is suffering from budget deficits.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that scientists have said is a leading cause of lung cancer. The gas is a byproduct of decaying underground uranium. It seeps into homes through cracks, pipes and other passageways.

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