As it is every year, January is national radon action month. This year feels different. Many of us are spending more time at home to keep each other safe and focus on our health. 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. This December Lamar Paris, Union County Sole Commissioner, released a proclamation January 2021 would be Radon Action Month in Union County.
In Union County, about 45% of homes have elevated levels of radon. In Towns County, about 34% of homes have elevated levels of radon. (Data from radon.uga.edu) 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.
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 rise 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. A short-term radon test is hung in the lowest level of the home for three to seven days before being mailed to the laboratory. The laboratory will then send the homeowner results after it processes the test kit. Tests can be obtained from the UGA Radon Program website (radon.uga.edu) or a hardware or big box store. We also sell them at the Towns and Union County Extension Offices for $10. During the month of January, Georgians can receive $5 off their online radon test kit order at (radon.uga.edu) by using the code NRAM2021 at checkout.
If the radon level in your home is high, you can install a radon reduction system. A radon reduction (or radon mitigation) system reduces high levels of indoor radon to acceptable levels. 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. We also have curated a list of people who are certified radon mitigators and do radon mitigation work in our area that I would be happy to share with you.
Radon exposure from drinking water is primarily a concern in 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 whether there is radon in your well water, have the water tested. The UGA Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories in Athens test water samples for the presence of radon. To get a water testing kit, contact your County Extension office. We sell the radon in water test kits for $40.
Radon is a real and serious issue in our area. If you have questions about radon contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.