Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., after tobacco smoke. It kills nearly 22,000 people each year, more than 800 of them in Georgia. Lung cancer induced by radon costs over $2 billion every year in direct and indirect health care costs. If you smoke and your home has high levels of radon, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
How are you exposed to radon, and what can you do? Most of the time, Radon harmlessly dissipates into the atmosphere outdoors, as it has for millions of years, presenting no major problems. It becomes a problem when it finds its way into your house. Radon gas collects in voids and air spaces under the foundation of your home and gradually enters through cracks or even through showers and drainage pumps. Once it enters the living areas of your home, the only way out is through cracks and openings. It can be present in your home and you will not even be aware of it because you cannot see, smell or taste radon. Humans are exposed to radon through ingestion and inhalation. The way to reduce radon inside is to have a professional install a radon mitigation system.
A radon reduction system reduces high levels of indoor radon to acceptable levels. The system most frequently used is a vent pipe system and fan which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average radon mitigation costs about $1,200, but can range from $800 to $2,500, depending on the complexity of the home, the home’s radon level, and local labor and material costs.
The state of Georgia currently has no requirement that radon mitigators be certified. The University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences Radon Education Program provides helpful guidelines while urging consumers to be proactive when selecting a radon mitigator. The REP’s purpose is to provide the consumer with recommendations, which are in no way regulatory.
The first step is to find out what the radon level is inside your home. Radon occurs throughout the United States and everyone should test their home. Testing is simple and inexpensive. Radon test results from other homes in the neighborhood should not be used to estimate the radon level in a particular home. Homes which are next to each other can have different indoor radon levels. Testing is the only way to know. You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you’ve lived with an elevated radon level for a long time.
According to the EPA, one in three homes that were checked in seven states had radon screening levels of over the recommended safe level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). While there is no safe level for radon exposure, it is agreed that the risk of death due to radon at 4 pCi/L is approximately 1 in 100. The statistics are alarming. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes.
Testing is inexpensive and easy — it should take only a few minutes of your time. Millions of Americans have tested their homes for radon.
The award-winning Georgia Radon Education Program is a partnership funded by the EPA among the University of Georgia College of FACS Extension Service, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and Southface Energy Institute to educate Georgians on actions to take to protect themselves from the risk of developing lung cancer caused by the unwelcome entry of radon gas in our homes.
January is National Radon Action Month. To learn more about radon and how to test for this silent killer, visit the Cherokee County Cooperative Extension office on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Visit with Ginger Bennet, our radon educator. Ms. Bennet will be available all day until 5 pm and will have radon test kits available for purchase for $8 each.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.