This naturally occurring radioactive gas is produced during the normal decay of uranium found in the earth’s crust and is harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air. However, when radon is trapped in buildings, especially at elevated levels, it poses a significant danger to a person’s health. More than 21,000 deaths are attributed to radon exposure each year. The gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. and the No. 1 cause among nonsmokers. Bradley County has been identified as a zone one high risk area in Tennessee with the high potential for indoor radon problems.
One in 15 homes across the United States has elevated radon levels. In Tennessee, EPA estimates that 70 percent of the population lives in moderate-to-high risk radon areas. It follows then that a substantial number of Bradley County residents are at risk of radon exposure. In light of these facts, my office is cooperating with EPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to educate the public about this hidden danger.
Radon is colorless, odorless and tasteless, and due to the differences in soil any home in Bradley County may have an elevated level of this gas, even if other homes in the same neighborhood do not. This means you could be one of the 70 percent at risk.
The gas can invade your home due to air pressure inside your home being lower than pressure in the soil around and under your house. Because of the pressure difference, radon can move into the house through cracks, sump pumps, well water supplies and other openings. The good news is, testing for radon is simple and inexpensive and the problem can be fixed.
First, if you plan to build a new home TDEC recommends installing one or more radon escape stacks at the time of construction. When purchasing a new home, require a radon test prior to closing. Those who live in existing homes in Bradley County should seriously consider testing their home for excessive radon and installing a radon removal system if needed.
Radon test kits are inexpensive and in some cases provided free through the Tennessee Radon Program. You can learn more about the program at www.tn.gov/environment/ea/radon. The toll-free number is 1-800-232-1139.
Here are a couple of additional facts about radon. Daily exposure to 4 picocuries of the gas is equivalent to smoking a half pack of cigarettes a day. One year’s exposure to 10 picocuries is equal to having 500 chest X-rays each year.
I encourage you to be proactive. Your best defense against this silent killer is a good offense. Visit the TDEC website above. Learn all the facts and get a radon test kit. The only way to know is to test.