January Is Radon Awareness Month in Cherokee County

— Written By Teresa Goley

Protecting Your Family From Radon and Lung Cancer

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas. Radon is released harmlessly from the ground into outdoor air, but it can accumulate and reach harmful levels when trapped in homes and buildings. Scientists have long been concerned about the health risks of radon, but never before has there been such overwhelming proof that exposure to elevated levels of radon causes lung cancer in humans.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Since radon does not have an odor and is invisible, people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer within the walls of their home.

Some homes in this county have tested high for radon. Houses in the same neighborhood can have very different levels, so every home should be tested. Testing homes for radon is simple and inexpensive. Radon test kits can be purchased at local hardware and home improvement stores or directly from radon testing companies that can be found online.

There are two types of radon tests: a short-term test and a long-term test. A short-term test runs for 2-7 days in your home. The long-term test runs for at least 9 days and up to 1 year. While the long-term test is more accurate, many people prefer the fast results from the short-term test. We recommend conducting at least 2 short-term tests in the same location in your home before mitigating. If the results of one long-term test OR the average of two short-term tests comes back over 4 pCi/L, it is recommended that you mitigate your home.

There are several ways to mitigate for radon. It is best to hire a certified radon mitigator to fix your home, as they have been trained in the proper ways to deal with radon. A list of certified radon mitigators can be found on the NC Radon Program website www.ncradon.org.

The most common mitigation method is called “sub-slab suction”. For sub-slab suction, a hole is drilled in the bottom floor of the home, a PVC pipe is inserted into the hole under the home, and then the pipe is routed through the home and discharged above the roof. (See figure A). A fan is then placed in the PVC pipe. When the fan is turned on, or the system is activated, the gas from underneath the home is sucked through the pipe and safely discharged above the roof into the outdoor air. This prevents the radon gas from moving into the home from the soil.

Cherokee County will have free radon kits available in the month of January. Make sure that you stop by the Cherokee County Extension Office at 40 Peachtree Street, room 206 in Murphy and get your free kit!

Mitigating a home for radon typically costs between $1200 and $1800 and is the only option for home owners once a house has been built. However, for those building a new home, there is a more cost effective way to protect their family against radon. Building a home with radon resistant new construction (RRNC) essentially builds a radon mitigation system into a new home that is more effective, more aesthetically pleasing, and typically only adds $200-$800 to the cost of building the home. If you are interested in learning more about radon-resistant homes or have any other radon-related questions, please visit the NC Radon Program’s website at www.ncradon.org or call 828-301-8807.