Did you know that 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 would like area residents to know how they can get a free test kit for their home and 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,” explains Bonnie Deakins, Director of Environmental Health at the Health Department, “It enters the home through cracks and openings, and all homes regardless of age, energy-efficiency, or foundation type are at risk. The only way to know is to test that 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 specifically 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.
Take these steps to reduce your risk:
- Test your home or business with the free kit from the Tennessee Radon Program, operated by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). Structures should be retested every 3-5 years. Flooding and saturated ground can produce artificially lower test results. The results can be emailed to the owner. (tdec.tn.gov/Radon_Online/frmRADON_Online.aspx)
- 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 to a realtor about radon in real estate transactions.
- If you smoke, lessen your risk by quitting. Call the Quit Line for a free personal cessation coach, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).
For more information about radon, testing, and mitigation work, visit:
- EPA’s radon website (epa.gov/radon) or EPA partner Kansas State University’s National Radon Program Services (sosradon.org)
- TN Department of Environment & Conservation’s Radon Program
- Tennessee Department of Health’s Healthy Homes – Radon (http://www.tn.gov/health/article/radon)
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department does not perform testing but residents can call Sabrina Novak for general radon information at (423) 209-8073.