Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that is produced by the decay of uranium in soil and water. Radon in the soil seeps into homes and other buildings through cracks in the foundation or slab where it can be found in concentrated amounts.
How Dangerous is Radon?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), next to smoking, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer around the world. In fact, at its highest levels, the danger is equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has estimated that 15,000 to 22,000 Americans die every year from radon-related lung cancer. The risk is significantly higher for smokers because of the way radon enters the body.
How Does Radon Enter the Body?
Most radon and its decay products enter the body by being inhaled. The decay products attach themselves to particulates and aerosols in the air such as cooking oil vapors. When they are inhaled, some of these particles stay in the lungs. They also stick to tobacco leaves and enter the lungs when tobacco is smoked or even through smoke that is in the air. That is why the chances of contracting lung cancer from radon are significantly higher for smokers and even those exposed to second-hand smoke than those who live in a smoke-free environment.
How Does it Affect the Body?
When these particles are breathed in, the decay products that are not removed by the lungs’ natural filtering system can deposit in the lungs, releasing radiation that damages the tissue. They can also be absorbed into the blood.
Is There a Medical Test to Determine Exposure?
Although some decay products can be detected in urine and blood as well as lung and bone tissue, few medical facilities do such testing. Besides, since the destruction of tissue begins almost immediately, the results would be outdated once the person was re-exposed. The best way to determine your exposure to radon is by having a radon test done on your home or office.
What is a Dangerous Level of Radon?
There is not a “safe” level of radon. Any exposure poses some risk of cancer. Since radon is a naturally-occurring gas, there is virtually no way to achieve a zero level. The minimum level of radon in a home is about 1.2 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air). According to the EPA, a level of 4.0 pCi/L or more is considered elevated and potentially hazardous to your health.
What are the Radon Levels in the Atlanta Area?
The amount of radon varies throughout the country and even from house to house, depending upon the chemical make-up of the soil underneath the structure. However, levels of radon in Atlanta are particularly high. According to the EPA, Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, and DeKalb counties have a predicted average indoor radon level at the 4 pCi/L level—higher than any other area in the state. That is why radon testing in Atlanta is an important part of our work. The EPA map for Georgia shows how the entire state is rated.
As noted, rates can vary from house to house. Even if your neighbor had a radon test and the results were low, that is no reason to assume that yours are as well. The only way you can know how much radon is in your home is to test the levels. Both the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General have issued Health Advisories recommending that all homes be tested for radon below the third floor and that homes with radon levels at or above 4 pCi/L be fixed.
Why Should I Have My Home Professionally Tested for Radon?
There are many kinds of low-cost, “do-it-yourself” radon test kits that you can order online or buy in the hardware store. However, it is best to have the testing done by qualified professionals. This is particularly true if you are purchasing a new home. This way, you can be assured that the results are accurate and valid. Champia’s Atlanta radon testing professionals have the highest industry standard certifications by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), International Code Council (ICC), and National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP).
If you are having an Atlanta home inspection done, we can bundle in the radon testing, as well as a termite inspection and mold inspection. This will save you money and help ensure that the house you have chosen is safe for your family. If our Atlanta home inspectors find any problems, they can often be easily fixed. They are usually no reason to give up on your dream home.
To find out more about our Atlanta radon testing services and to schedule an inspection, go to http://champia.com/residential/additional-services/radon-testing-in-atlanta/.