Long term exposure to radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. In observance of National Radon Action Month, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department is offering free home test kits to area residents and reaching out to let people know what they can do to reduce their exposure.
There is no safe level of radon exposure. “Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless,” says Bonnie Deakins, director of environmental health at the Health Department. “It enters buildings through cracks and openings, and all homes, regardless of age, energy efficiency, or its foundation, are at risk. The only way to know if you are being exposed to radon is to test your home.”
Radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States. It occurs in every county in Tennessee, with Hamilton County at a moderate risk. Those who smoke not only incur damage to the lungs from tobacco, but they are also exposed to the constant background of radon in the atmosphere, placing them at an even higher risk than non-smokers.
To reduce your risk:
- Test your home or business with a free kit from the Tennessee Radon Program (tdec.tn.gov/Radon_Online/frmRADON_Online.aspx), operated by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). Structures should be retested every three to five years. Flooding and saturated ground can produce artificially lower test results. The results can be emailed to the owner.
- If the level is determined to be dangerous, contact a qualified contractor who specializes in radon mitigation. Although Tennessee does not regulate this type of work, it is suggested to use contractors certified or trained by either the National Radon Proficiency Program (nrpp.info) or the National Radon Safety Board (nrsb.org). In any case, it is advisable to check with the Better Business Bureau, get references, and obtain several bids.
- New homes can be built with radon-resistant techniques. These systems can be selling points in the future. Talk with a Realtor about radon in real estate transactions.
Source: Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department