COVINGTON, Ga. - Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that causes lung cancer. Every 25 minutes someone dies from radon-induced lung cancer. During Radon Action Month this January, UGA experts are advising you to test your home for radon gas.
When uranium, which occurs naturally in Georgia soil and rock, breaks down, it produces radon gas. Radon is a heavy gas which seeps into homes from the ground and concentrates in the lower levels of a house. Radon can be present in any home, regardless of the age or type of home. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 6.7 percent of homes nationwide have elevated levels of radon gas; however, in some counties, the levels are higher. In Newton County, between March 2003 and July 2017, about 23.5 percent of the homes tested had elevated levels of radon. An elevated level of radon is anything at, or above, 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Being exposed to a level of 4 pCi/L has similar health effects as smoking 8 cigarettes per day.
The only way to know if your home has a high level of radon is to test for radon. Radon test kits are available from several sources, including local retailers, some county Extension offices and by ordering online at www.UGAradon.org. Kits purchased online cost $13 and include the kit, shipping, lab analysis, and test results.
If the radon level in your home is high, it is fixable. Installing a radon reduction (or radon mitigation) system will reduce high levels of indoor radon to acceptable levels. The system most commonly used is a vent pipe system, which includes a fan that pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.
Radon may also be found in drinking water. This is primarily a concern for individuals whose drinking water comes from private wells. In Georgia, wells drilled into granitic crystalline rock aquifers, usually in the northern part of the state, are at risk of naturally occurring radon contamination. This is where the uranium that decays to radon can be found at higher levels. If you don’t know if there is radon in your well water, have the water tested. The UGA Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories in Athens tests water samples for the presence of radon. To get a water testing kit, contact your local UGA Extension office or call 1-800-ASK-UGA1. For more information on radon, visit www.ugaradon.org.