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Radon: Should we be concerned?
Ask a master gardener
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Several weeks ago, community columnist Dot Moss reported on her efforts to discover whether she should be concerned about radon levels at her home.
Her report was accurate. In South Georgia where sandy soils exist, there is no major effort or concerns to determine radon levels. This is probably due to an EPA report showing us in Zone 3, an area with low potential exposure or exposure at levels below 2 pCi/L (pico curies per liter).
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that enters buildings from the surrounding soil. It is colorless, odorless, tasteless and radioactive. The amount of radon found in many Georgia homes may pose a risk to health. Radon is known to cause cancer in humans and is second only to tobacco smoking as a cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Radon is not regulated in Georgia, so it is up to each homeowner to decide for themselves how much radon is acceptable in their home. Since it is a radioactive gas, there is no "safe" level. The good news is that homeowners can act to lower the amount of radon in their homes and reduce the risks to their families.
Radon is produced by the natural decay of uranium in soil and rock all over the U.S. Radon is also a Class A carcinogen.
Although radon is present throughout the environment, when high levels of radon enter a home or building, people are exposed to more of its radiation and their risk of cancer increases. Such a situation can easily be discovered and corrected.
The surgeon general of the United States, Richard Carmona, recommended in 2005 that every house in the United States be tested. Testing is the only way to know if your family is at risk for lung cancer from breathing radon in your home. Carmona's press release also said homes with high radon levels should be fixed to lower that level.
Because of its geology, much of the soil and rock in Georgia contains uranium, especially in the Piedmont area. Uranium has a long decay chain that eventually breaks down to release radon gas. Therefore much of our state's geology provides an ongoing supply of radon. A map of 20 years test results from one test kit manufacturer shows Atlanta metro area, including Stone Mountain and counties to the north and east are more likely to have a higher radon reading. However, no area of the state is radon-free. Many homes in Georgia have enough radon to pose risk to occupants' health over many years of exposure. Homeowners can reduce this risk, but they must act.
We are not safe from radon in Liberty County? However, the potential for exposure is lower than other parts of the state. I have secured 20 test kits to survey of homes in our area. If you have a concern and would like to determine the levels of radon in your home, give me a call at 876-2133. It is my intent to have these kits used throughout the county. If your neighbors have already volunteered then you may not get an opportunity to participate in this free survey. Now for the disclaimer, each home has to be tested in order to determine if radon levels are acceptable. Your neighbor's home can test at 0 and your home may test at high levels.
You can get more information on radon and other indoor air quality issues at:

Bell is Liberty County's Extension agent.
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