Toi Degree: Don’t fall prey to radon in your home

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 23, 2022

January is National Radon Action Month, a time to increase awareness of radon and to take an opportunity to test your home for radon.

The colorless, odorless, tasteless, and chemically inert radioactive gas is naturally occurring and formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil and water. Testing is the only way of telling how much radon is present.

Radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to the United States, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. Radon exposure is a preventable health risk, and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure.

The North Carolina Radon Program will make 3,000 free radon test kits available. These are short-term kits but can be very helpful in determining if there is a presence of radon in your home. One test kit per household is available.

Here are a few frequently asked questions that can assist you in understanding radon better and how it makes its way into your home.

• My home does not have a basement; do I still need to test?

Yes. All home types should test for radon including condos, townhomes, homes with and without crawl spaces, homes built on a concrete slab, manufactured and modular homes, and apartments.

• Will granite countertops increase the radon in my home?

Probably not. The EPA does not believe sufficient data exists to conclude that the types of granite commonly used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.

• How does radon enter my home?

Radon is drawn into your home through several pathways. Buildings are like vacuums, drawing gases of all sorts inside your home. Radon is composed under your home, and then the suction of the building draws it inside.

  May I install my mitigation system?

Yes. No laws prevent you from installing a radon mitigation system. Make yourself aware of any local ordinances or building permit requirements. Your local government may require a building permit. Electrical work may require a licensed electrician. You may also want to consult with any other governing bodies such as a homeowner’s association.

• I have a radon mitigation system in my home. Can I assume my radon level is low?

No. Some North Carolina homes have radon mitigation systems that were installed in the 1990s. Radon mitigation fans are generally warrantied for 5 years. The recommendation is to test your home at least every five years, whether or not you have a radon mitigation system. This will help you determine if your system is keeping indoor radon levels low.

To get a radon kit, go to the North Carolina Radon Program site  at ncradon.org and enter your information to request a kit. Once you have requested your kit, it will be mailed to your home address.

Here are a few additional sites for more information:

• NC State Extension Healthy Homes – Radon https://healthyhomes.ces.ncsu.edu/radon/

• Environmental Protection Agency – Radon https://www.epa.gov/radon

Toi N. Degree is Associate Family & Consumer Education Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension.  Reach her by phone at 704-216-8970 or by email at toi_degree@ncsu.edu.

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