The new year is a good time to test for radon, as January is National Radon Action month.
“The biggest danger of radon is lung cancer. It’s an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that is in elevated levels in one in fifteen homes in the U.S.,” said Derek Cooper, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s radon educator.
“We emphasize those characteristics because the only way to detect radon is to test for it,” he said.
According to Cooper, 800 people die every year from the effects of radon.
“Georgia has the highest rate of lung cancer in the Southeast,” he said. “It’s an issue where alpha particles released by radon can interact with lung tissues and eventually cause lung cancer.”
According to Cooper, alpha particles are a type of radiation that are released when radon breaks down. They are large physical particles that cannot break through skin and can cause damage when breathed.
The health effects from high exposure to radon can resemble those from smoking and smokers face a greater risk of lung cancer if they are exposed to radon, said Cooper.
“It is particularly important for anyone who smokes or has smoked to test for radon,” he said.
Radon results from the breakdown of uranium, which naturally occurs in granite and rocky soils.
According to Cooper, Georgia has granite underneath its soil mostly in the northern half of the state above the Fall Line, an area that divides the Piedmont and Coastal Plains regions. This area includes Coweta County.
Between March 2003 and July 2017, Coweta County had 866 self-reported radon tests, with 182 tests having elevated levels.
“About one in five homes had elevated levels,” Cooper said. “Which is significantly higher than the national average.”
According to radon-faq.com, a pCi is a measure of the rate of radioactive decay of radon.
One pCi is one trillionth of a Curie, 0.037 disintegrations per second, or 2.22 disintegrations per minute. Therefore, at 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter, the EPA's recommended action level), there will be approximately 12,672 radioactive disintegrations in one liter of air during a 24-hour period.
The Environmental Protection Agency marked Coweta County as a Zone Two area for radon, which means the average amount detected is between 2 and 4 pCi/L.
More than 4 pCi/L is considered a high test result for radon.
“We like to emphasize that any type of home can have radon in it,” Cooper said. “Some people like to think it occurs in only homes with basements, but it can occur in any type of construction.”
More information about radon and testing for the gas can be found at http://www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/home-radon .