Radon detection urged in Surry

Anthony GonzalezStaff Writer

January 3, 2013

What you don’t see may be a killer.

It’s not carbon monoxide, but it can have the same destructive effect. It quietly lurks in Surry County homes, and many of us don’t even know it. The Environmental Protection Agency describes it as the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Smokers exposed to it over the long term have 8 times the risk from it as nonsmokers.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced through the decay of uranium and radium in the soil. It’s hard to detect without using a specific test for radon and its decay products, according to the EPA website.

January is Radon Action month, the EPA recently announced. The American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute all agree radon is a national health problem and encourage radon testing during this month

“Radon is released harmlessly from the ground into outdoor air, but it can accumulate and reach harmful levels when trapped in homes and buildings,” said Carmen Long from the Surry County Cooperative Extension. “We’re giving away short-term testing kits for free because it’s important to help save lives.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Since radon does not have an odor and is invisible, people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer within the walls of their home.

According to the Cooperative Extension, some homes in Surry County have tested high for radon. Houses in the same neighborhood can have very different levels, so every home should be tested, they say.

“Though higher mountain counties have a greater risk for radon, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be cautious and proactive,” said Long.

Should your home be found to have elevated levels of radon, the problem can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of many other home repairs. In Surry, the cost can be from $1,000 to $2,500 depending on the home.

The NC Radon Program urges residents to take action during this year’s National Radon Action Month by testing their homes for radon.

For more information on radon and to receive your free radon test kit, please contact the Surry County Cooperative Extension office at 336-401-8025. Or visit the NC Radon Program’s website atwww.ncradon.org.