January is National Radon Action Month

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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January is National Radon Action Month

Posted: 01/07/2010
Radon is a natural cancer-causing radioactive gas that can't be seen, smelled or tasted. It can infiltrate your home and high levels pose a serious health threat. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second overall leading cause of lung cancer in America. It silently claims about 21,000 lives in the U.S. every year - more than drunk drivers. That's why Knox County Health Department urges all homeowners, especially those with basements, to test for radon.

Free radon testing kits are available through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) by simply calling the TDEC Radon Hotline at 1-800-232-1139 or go to: www.state.tn.us/environment/ea/pdf/radon_testkit.pdf. Inexpensive testing kits also are available at most hardware stores and home repair centers.

Radon occurs naturally from the breakdown of radioactive minerals in the earth. As a gas, it works its way to the surface, especially where rock formations like karst (fractured limestone with groundwater channels and caves) are found - places like Knox and surrounding counties. The U.S. Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend testing homes for radon. In new construction, WHO, EPA and TDEC recommend use of radon-resistant practices, so radon mitigation can be accomplished, if needed, at the lowest possible cost.

The EPA recommends homes with radon levels testing more than 4 pCi/L (picoCuries of radioactivity per liter of air) - a level 10 times higher than the concentration of radon in outdoor air - should have a ventilation system installed to safely vent radon from the home. These systems are comparable in price to other home repairs. Unfortunately, no technology exists to reduce radon concentrations in the home to zero, so there will always be some level of risk.

If you are on well water for your drinking water supply and your home has an elevated radon level, EPA recommends testing your water supply too. If well water has radon contamination, it is best addressed by adding a treatment device at the point where the well water enters the house, not at the tap - the biggest risk from radon in water is from breathing it while showering, not from drinking it.

Additional information on Radon can be found at the following links:

EPA's Citizen's Guide to Radon
Radon - A Physician's Guide: The Health Threat With A Simple Solution. This booklet on radon has been developed for physicians by EPA in consultation with the American Medical Association. 
Knox County Health Department is committed to promoting public health policies and practices to safeguard and improve quality of life for all residents. KCHD offers an array of resources, including medical and dental services, family planning, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, air quality management, environmental services, food preparation oversight in public places, smoking cessation, family violence prevention, worksite wellness, nutritional programs and much more. For more information about Knox County Health Department, visit www.knoxcounty.org/health.