DOBSON — Surry County Cooperative Extension is encouraging residents to take action during this year’s National Radon Action Month by testing their homes for the dangerous gas.
“Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas,” said Extension Family and Consumer Education Agent Carmen Long. ” It is released harmlessly from the ground into outdoor air, but it can accumulate and reach harmful levels when trapped in homes and buildings.”
She said statewide, one out of 15 homes tested will have elevated levels of the gas. The EPA measures radon in PicoCuries (pCi/l) and defines elevated levels as those testing above 4 pCi/l.
“Typically, most homes in our area test in Zone 2, and have levels from 2-4 PicoCuries,” said Long. “This earns us a designation as a Zone 2 County. There are lots of rocks in our soil which can contribute to radon levels.” She said symptoms of long-term exposure to the gas can take anywhere from five to 15 years to appear although tobacco smoking combined with long-term exposure to elevated levels of radon increases the risk of cancer nine times.
Long provided information from the United States Environmental Agency estimates radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year nationally. The EPA reports that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking and it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
“Since radon doesn’t have an odor and is invisible, people tend to downplay the health effects,” added Long. “They should not ignore the health effects and ingoing the possibility it might be within the walls of their home. Some homes in Surry County have tested high for radon. Houses in the same neighborhood can have very different levels, so every home should be tested.”
She said that testing homes for radon is simple and inexpensive. Long said testing kits can often be purchased at local hardware and home improvement stores, directly from radon testing companies or free from the NC Radon Program. A number of the kits have been received by the extension service and are available at no charge.
“People are welcome to come by our offices and pick one up,” said Long. “In stores, radon testing kits can run anywhere from ten to twenty dollars. We are proud to be able to provide them for free.”
Long said the tests available through the extension service are short term tests. The kit is left out in the home for three days. The sample is then dropped in the mail (postage paid), and the results are mailed back to the homeowner.
“Many persons have told us they don’t know if they really want to find out about the level of radon in their homes,” continued Long. “Long term effects can be avoided with a minimum of effort. In many cases all it takes to stop radon leaking into a home is caulking or putting a vapor barrier under a home.”
She said radon also can be found in schools and homes but it is especially important to test homes because most people spend a majority of their time there. Long also said extension agents will be distributing the kits at events they will holding throughout the county this month.
“Lots of good information on radon can be found at the website www.ncradon.org,” added Long. “It also lists EPA publications available to help people learn more about why its so important to know what the levels are in their home.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.