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Radon on my radar



by Jennifer Woods at Southern Standard newspaper


Like a dripping faucet, once you are aware of something you can’t ignore it. Recently this was the case with my new found radon awareness.


As a precaution I had a radon test done at my home. I quickly researched all I could on all things radon related after receiving the concerning result. The Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable level of radon in a dwelling is 4%. My test was above that and so I went down the rabbit hole of finding out more and what needed to be done to remedy this radon malady.


Here’s some basic radon information you need to be aware of first. Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas that is easily inhaled. Radon gas leaves the soil and becomes part of the air and water. It can be in the air around you, but it’s usually in very small amounts that aren't harmful. Large amounts of radon cause health problems. Even though it's a natural gas that comes from the earth, it can be toxic if you breathe in a lot of it over a long time. When you breathe in radon, it gets into the lining of your lungs and gives off radiation. Over a long time, that can damage the cells there and lead to lung cancer.


Radon can accumulate in buildings, especially, due to its high density, in low areas such as basements and crawl spaces.


What constitutes an acceptable or safe radon level? According to the EPA, the maximum “acceptable” level of radon is 4.0 pCi/L. The EPA strongly recommends you consider radon mitigation between levels 2.0 and 4.0. Radon mitigation is any process used to reduce radon gas concentrations in the breathing zones of occupied buildings, or radon from water supplies.


What this means for us in Tennessee is that if you live near a river, creek or a cave, knowingly or not, radon levels may be higher. However, all homes should be tested for radon, regardless of geographic location just to be safe. Don’t fear though, there are some reliable ways you can keep your exposure low and solutions are available to bring down radon levels.


The first thing to do is a radon test. If you want to do the test yourself there are several options out there in retail stores. You can also have a home inspector do the test for you.


EPA recommends that you have a qualified and certified radon mitigation specialist fix your home because lowering high radon levels requires specific technical knowledge and special skills. Without the proper equipment or technical knowledge, you could actually increase your radon level or create other potential hazards and additional costs. There are also radon mitigation kits available in stores and online just like the testing kits. If you decide to do the work yourself, get information on appropriate training courses from your state radon office. The TN Radon Program number is 615-532-5944 and Radon Hotline is 1-800-232-1139.


So there is a problem out there and thankfully a solution as well. Be sure to research companies that do radon mitigation.


Standard reporter Jennifer Woods can be reached at jwoods@wearemidtn.com.


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