Athens News Matters: Radon Awareness Month - Steps You can Take to Stay Safe
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 North Georgia a relatively high percentage of homes have elevated levels of radon.
On the national scale, about 1 in 15 homes will have an elevated level of radon.
WUGA's Chris Shupe spoke with expert Derek Cooper, a radon educator at the University of Georgia Radon Education Program about radon and what you can do to make sure you and your family are safe with your own home.
This transcript was edited for clarity
To start, what exactly is radon, where does it come from, and how does it find its way into our homes?
Radon is a radioactive gas. And it is natural. It comes from the breakdown of uranium, which is found in trace amounts in soil and rock. Often, it's found in granite rock in Georgia, particularly.
As the uranium breaks down, it releases radon gas that comes up through the soil. And if it ends up coming up under someone's home, that's when it can rise to higher concentrations and be a little dangerous for the homeowners.
What effects can radon have on your body if you're exposed to too much of it?
Because it's radioactive, it can damage the DNA in our lung tissue and over many, many years of exposure can lead to lung cancer.
Radon is a pretty unique gas. It's odorless, colorless, and tasteless, and you really don't tend to know you're being affected by it. However, the one thing that it does cause is an elevated risk of lung cancer. Because it's radioactive, it can damage the DNA in our lung tissue and over many, many years of exposure can lead to lung cancer.
How can Georgians make sure they aren't being exposed to this harmful gas in their own homes?
The only way to determine if you have radon in your home is to use a radon test kit. These can be obtained from the UGA radon website or at your local hardware store. You hang them in your home for a short period of time, mail them to the lab, and the lab will analyze the kit and let you know if you have a safe or a dangerous amount of radon gas in your home.
What should listeners do if they if they test for radon and find that there is some in their home?
Fortunately, any home with an elevated level of radon can be fixed. The first step we would say is to do a follow up test on your home just to confirm those high results. And if you do have elevated results, you can contact a mitigator. We have some good resources on our website about how to find qualified mitigators.
Unfortunately, in Georgia, we don't have any laws on radon mitigators. So really, anyone can call themselves a mitigator and show up to your house and do the work. However, we do recommend using a mitigator certified by one of two national programs that that they can choose to get the certifications.
What would you say are the percentage of homes that do test out that they have unacceptable levels of radon?
The whole North half of Georgia where that granite rock is present tends to have a higher risk of having elevated levels of radon.
On the national scale, about 1 in 15 homes will have an elevated level of radon. However, the whole North half of Georgia where that granite rock is present tends to have a higher risk of having elevated levels of radon. And so, for instance, in the Athens area, I think we're closer to about 1 in 8 homes having an elevated level of radon. And in some parts of Georgia, it's close to 1 in 2 homes, just because of the geology.
We have all the data from short term test kits done in the state available on our website. It's a pretty cool resource. You can go and click on the map on our website and actually be able to click each county and see how many tests have been done in that county, how many were elevated, and what percent of those tests were considered a high level of radon. It's a cool resource to just see risks throughout the state.