ROCKINGHAM — Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer, according to the United States Environmental Protection agency — but it cannot be detected by sight or smell.
Radon is naturally found in soil, and even in some building materials. As it is released from soil, it enters buildings through cracks and openings in the lower levels of homes. In time, levels can build up in basements and ground-floor rooms.
The Richmond County Health Department has free kits available to ensure radon levels in homes are within the EPA’s recommended guidelines.
According to those guidelines, homes with concentrations of indoor radon at or above 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) put those living there in danger.
Health and Human Services Director Dr. Tommy Jarrell said only 43 homes in Richmond County have been tested for radon since 1996.
“The results have ranged from 1.7 pCi/L to 11.3 pCi/L among those tested,” Jarrell said.
According to a slide presentation from the health department, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer cases in the United States — and the EPA reports nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. The EPA estimates radon is “responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.”
Jarrell said it is important for residents to have their homes tested for excessive levels of radon.
“It is recommended that a home be mitigated if it has an average radon level of 4 pCi/L or more,” he explained. “Therefore we encourage all citizens to have their homes tested for radon. The radon test kits are provided by the Richmond County Health Department free of charge.”
The health department presentation’s steps for completing the free home radon test kit are:
1) Fill out the form for the Radon test. Include name, address, start time of the test, end time of the test, room temperature, and house floor.
2) Open up the test packet and fold the opening into a square shape, then insert the foam filter.
3) After testing for the minimum amount of time (three days) remove the foam filter and fold the packet back into its original form, and;
4) Ensure the packet is sealed air-tight, then mail the test to Air Chek, Inc.
The EPA’s “Citizen’s Guide to Radon” fact sheet states that “in an existing home, the cost to install a radon mitigation system is about the same as for other common home repairs such as painting or replacing a water heater.”
To learn more about radon, visit the EPA online at https://www.epa.gov/radon. To get a free test kit, contact the Richmond County Environmental Health Department at 910-997-8320.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673.