January is national radon action month. Many Georgians spend these cold months huddled inside waiting for a warmer spring. This makes it even more important that we test our homes for radon, a colorless, odorless gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
In Newton County, about 22-28% of homes have elevated levels of the naturally radioactive gas, radon. Over the course of many years, exposure to this gas can cause lung cancer even in non-smokers. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Smokers, current and former, exposed to radon gas have an even greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. Often granite rock naturally has high levels of uranium, which is part of why radon is such a persistent problem in Georgia. The gas seeps out of the soil and up through crawlspaces, foundations, and basements into a home. About 800 Georgians die annually from radon induced lung cancer.
Fortunately, testing for radon gas is simple and inexpensive. You hang a short-term radon test in the lowest living level of your home for three to seven days, then mail it to the laboratory for analysis. In a few days you will receive the test results. If the radon level in your home is high (4 picocuries per liter or above), you can have a certified radon mitigation professional install a radon reduction system that will reduce the indoor radon level. The system most frequently used is a vent pipe system and fan that pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.
A radon test kit can be obtained from the UGA Radon Program (radon.uga.edu) or a hardware store. During the month of January, Georgia residents will receive $5 off the cost of purchasing a radon test kit online by using the code NRAM2022 at checkout.
Radon may also be found in drinking water. This is primarily a concern with private well water. 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. To learn more about radon in water in your county visit aesl.ces.uga.edu/water/map/. You can have your well water tested at the UGA Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories in Athens.
To get a water testing kit, contact The Newton County UGA Extension office at 770-784-2010.