By Lynn Hobbs
Lake Country homes have a higher than average percentage for radon exposure, and with more people staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to test your home, health officials say.
Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, radioactive gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to Derek Cooper, UGA Extension radon educator. Each year, approximately 21,000 deaths occur in the U.S. because of radon’s hidden properties.
Radon forms naturally from the decay of uranium found in soil and various rocks, most notably, granite, which is pervasive in the north Georgia landscape. That is why homes and buildings in Putnam, Greene and Morgan counties, like all others north of Georgia’s fall line, are more susceptible to accumulation of radon.
Cooper said that of the limited number of home tests completed in 2019, Putnam County homes had the highest percentage with 1 in 4 homes having elevated levels. In Greene County, it was 1 in 5 homes, and Morgan County had 1 in 6 homes.
Radon seeps into homes through cracks and gaps in the foundation, and is found in all types of homes, including those on slabs, with basements, and crawlspaces. It also can contaminate well water, according to information from UGA Extension.
Therefore, testing for radon should be as routine as any other household precautionary measure, Cooper said. “I like to ask people if they have a smoke detector, and almost everybody says ‘yes,’” he explained. “In the U.S., about 3,000 people die from house fires each year. But if I ask someone if they have tested for radon, they usually say, ‘no,’ and about 21,000 people a year die from radon-induced lung cancer.”
Doing a radon test is just as easy as having a smoke detector, Cooper noted, and radon contamination can be fixed. He said the best time to test is in the winter, but radon can be in the home throughout the year.
Fortunately, testing for radon gas is simple and inexpensive. A test kit is hung in the lowest level of the home for three to seven days before being mailed to a laboratory. Tests can be obtained from the UGA Radon Program website, www.radon.uga.edu, or from a hardware or big box store.
During the month of January, Georgians can receive $5 off their online radon test kit order by using the code NRAM2021 at checkout.
To test well water for radon, contact your local UGA Extension office for a kit, or call 1-800-ASK-UGA1. The kits will be analyzed at the UGA Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories in Athens.
If your home’s test reveals elevated levels of radon, Cooper suggests first having the test re-done to confirm the levels before investing in removal. After that, the extension office can help you find a reputable contractor certified in reducing radon, he said.
For more information, visit www.ugaradon.org, email Cooper at ugaradon.uga.edu, or call him at 706-583-0602.