January is National Radon Awareness month. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, only behind tobacco smoke. It is responsible for a reported 21,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
Radon is a radioactive gas that forms when naturally-occurring uranium in granite bedrock decays into radium. This radium then decays to radon, which is a colorless, odorless gas. Radon is not harmful outside, but it can build up to damaging levels inside a house.
All of north Georgia, especially the upper third of the state, is considered to be at a moderate to high radon risk. Radon enters homes through cracks and crevices in your foundation. The air pressure inside your home acts as a vacuum, helping to pull radon up from the soil beneath.
How do you know if you have high radon levels in your house? Radon levels can vary from house to house. The only way to know whether or not you are being exposed to high radon levels is to utilize a test kit.
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers radon test kits for $13 per kit, and they are very simple to use. Kits contain a charcoal sponge which will soak up any radon entering your home.
All you have to do is hang the test kit from a string in the basement or first floor of your home for 3-7 days. You then send back the pre-paid envelope to the UGA Radon program. Your results will be mailed back to you a short time later.
Radon test kits can be ordered online by filling out the order form found at www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/home-radon. The website also has an instructional video on how to properly use the radon test kit, as well as bulletins which discuss the remediation process.
If your house does have elevated levels of radon above Environmental Protection Agency-acceptable levels, a UGA radon educator will contact you about remediation steps. There are several certified radon remediation specialists in Georgia who can install ventilation systems in your home to help the radon gas escape safely outside of your home.
If your air test kit confirms elevated levels of radon, and you are drinking from a well system, you may then want to test your well water for radon. Radon water test kits can be ordered from the local UGA extension office and cost $40.
Just as with tobacco smoke, not everyone exposed to radon will develop lung cancer. However, if you are concerned or would just like some peace of mind, radon test kits are an easy solution.
For more information on radon and radon test kits, please contact the Dawson County Extension office at (706)265-2442.