Heather N. Kolich, ANR Agent, UGA Extension Forsyth County

a cartoon image of a house sitting on the periodic table. A red banner advertising an upcoming Radon workshop-Forsyth County Extension and Hampton Park Library are partnering to host a UGA Radon Testing Workshop on January 6, 2024.
Forsyth County Extension and Hampton Park Library are partnering to host a UGA Radon Testing Workshop on January 6, 2024.

Every New Year, the top resolutions focus on aspects of health improvement, like eating healthier, exercising more, or quitting smoking. These are challenging goals that require a long commitment. Testing your home for radon gas, however, is quick, easy, and could have a profound impact on your health.

Radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., trailing only behind smoking. Radon gas is odorless and colorless and kills nearly 21,000 people – including over 800 Georgians – annually. One in every 15 homes has a high radon level.

Radon gas occurs naturally from the breakdown of radioactive elements, including uranium, thorium, and radium, in soil, rocks, and groundwater. Granite rock often has high levels of uranium, which is part of the reason radon is a persistent problem in Georgia. The gas seeps out of the soil and rises into homes through crawlspaces, foundations, and basements.

Fortunately, testing for radon gas in your home is easy and inexpensive. You simply hang a short-term radon air test kit in the lowest level of the home for three to seven days, then mail it to the laboratory for analysis. You’ll receive results from the lab after processing.

A county map of Georgia and each county is a different color indicating the radon levels found in that county. Forsyth County is in the 8-14% range.
Data for determining radon levels in Georgia come from test results of people who voluntarily test their homes for the presence of radon gas. Image from the UGA Radon Program.

Kits for testing radon levels in your home’s air can be purchased for $15 from the UGA Radon Program website (radon.uga.edu). During January, as part of National Radon Awareness Month, you can save $5 on these kits by using the code NRAM2024 at checkout.

Alternatively, Forsyth County Public Libraries have electronic radon monitors available for check-out. On January 6, 2024, Hampton Park Library is partnering with Forsyth County Extension to host a Radon Testing Workshop. University of Georgia Radon Educator Derek Cooper will discuss radon issues and demonstrate how to use the electronic radon monitor. He will also have some traditional air test kits for workshop participants who don’t want to wait for library kits to become available.

If the radon level in your home is high, you can install a radon mitigation system that reduces indoor radon to acceptable levels. The system most frequently used is a vent pipe and fan that pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.

Radon exposure from drinking water is primarily a concern in private wells. In Georgia, that risk is usually limited to the northern part of the state, where wells are often drilled into granitic crystalline rock aquifers. This is where uranium that decays to radon can be found at higher levels. The average concentration of radon in water from granite aquafers is 8,000 picocurie (pCi) per liter, as compared to 200-600 pCi per liter for groundwater.

Inside a home, radon can escape from water as a gas through agitation during showering, washing dishes, and washing clothes. This is how homes can become contaminated with radon gas from well water that contains radon. Aeration treatment or granular activated carbon treatment at the point where water enters the home is highly effective at removing radon from water.

Radon testing is available for water through the UGA Agricultural and Environmental Services Lab. Contact the Forsyth County Extension office at 770-887-2418 or Forsyth.extension@uga.edu for information about testing well water for radon.

Posted in: