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Radon: A potential cancer-causing gas in your house

Radon is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas that can be harmful to you. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., causing more than 21,000 deaths each year. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths, but radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.
Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe and can be found all over the U.S. It and can get into any type of building – homes, offices, and schools – and result in a high indoor radon level, but you and your family are most likely to get your greatest exposure at home. It can enter your home through a variety of ways, including your foundation and your well water. Sounds like something you would want to avoid? Well, don’t worry, it is easy to test your home for radon and stop it before it becomes a problem.

How do you test for radon? Start with a short-term test kit. They are affordable and easy to use. For your convenience, you can buy a radon test kit for $10 (includes test instructions, analysis, and results) at your Gwinnett County Extension Office, 750 South Perry Street in Lawrenceville. You may also purchase a kit online from the University of Georgia’s Radon Program’s website, Kits are affordable with UGA offering each online kit purchase at $13 (includes shipping, analysis, and results). Retailers may offer kits at a different price, but the purchase price may not cover analysis or sending you the results.

What happens once you have the kit? On the UGA Radon website you will find a video that explains how to test your home with a short-term radon test kit. If the radon level in your home is at or above 4 pCi/l, or picocuries per liter, you have high levels of radon. It is recommended that you test again with either a short-term (2 to 7 days) or long-term (3 to 12 months) device, depending on the exact situation. Long-term kits are more expensive and take longer to produce a result, but they are also more accurate. If the second result is above 4 pCi/l, you should seek professional help and have your home mitigated. Mitigation is the technique used to remove radon from your home and should be done by a certified mitigator. In Georgia, there are no requirements for professional radon mitigators. The EPA Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction provides a checklist to help you select a qualified radon mitigator.

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What if your neighbor’s house has a low radon level? While it may seem like you are fine if your neighbors’ houses have a low radon level, you could still be at risk. Radon levels vary from house to house, so even if your next door neighbor has a low radon level, it doesn’t mean your house has a similar level. The only way to know the radon level in your home is to test for it. It is up to you to keep your family safe from radon and its damaging effects.

For more information, contact Ines Beltran, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, at the UGA Extension Gwinnett office, 678.377.4010 or or