January is Radon Action Month and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is educating Tennesseans about the dangers of radon exposure, encouraging actions to identify and to address radon problems in the home.
The American Lung Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and various local and county health departments serve as partners in this outreach effort, designed to raise awareness about the health risk and the importance of testing.
According to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. This can be an issue as radon is a naturally occurring gas that can seep into homes through cracks and openings in the foundation. It cannot be seen, tasted or smelled, but in concentrated levels radon can pose a threat to human health.
“While in their homes resting, Tennesseans can also be testing,” TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said. “A simple do-it-yourself test can determine the presence of radon with use of test kits which are readily available, inexpensive to buy and can save lives.”
The EPA estimates that approximately 70 percent of Tennessee’s population lives in high risk or moderate risk radon areas. According to the EPA, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
The best time to test is during consistently cold weather, usually from October to March. This is the time of year when doors and windows are shut, so the test results are more representative of in-home exposure. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost comparable to that of many common household repairs, such as painting or installing a new water heater.
“It is important to test your home because radon acts unpredictably,” added Commissioner Martineau. “Nationally, about six percent of homes surveyed had elevated levels of radon. In contrast, 16 percent of Tennessee homes surveyed had elevated levels and in some counties, 33 to 75 percent of homes being tested have elevated levels of radon.”
While radon poses a threat to the community’s health, radon test kits are the first step toward a straightforward solution and are easy to use, said officials. In Tennessee, radon test kits can be purchased at most local hardware and home improvement stores.
For additional information about radon, please visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/sustainable-practices_radon-program.shtml or contact the Tennessee Radon Program at 800.232-1139.