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Silent threat: Radon could be lurking In your home

Becky Campbell • Jan 6, 2019 at 12:15 AM

Want to get healthy this year? You might start at the gym. Or testing your home for radon could be your first step.

Radon is an odorless, naturally occurring radioactive gas formed when uranium breaks down in soil and rock. It’s also invisible and known to exist in every county in Tennessee. Levels of radon vary from building to building due to numerous factors, including how the building was constructed, the level of ventilation and even weather.

“Long-term exposure to radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States behind smoking and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers,” Kendra Abkowitz, assistant commissioner for the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices, said.

“People are very health conscious at this time of year, so it makes perfect sense to consider the potential for health risk at home,” Abkowitz said. “We want Tennesseans to be aware of what levels of radon may be in their homes, and we are making it easy to find out by providing free radon test kits.”

Gov. Bill Haslam has proclaimed January as Radon Action Month. Tennesseans can test their homes for the gas with free radon test kits provided by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC.

Locally, TDEC had partnered with two fitness centers to provide more information about radon: Lifestyle Fitness Center, 316 Marketplace Drive, Johnson City; and Greater Kingsport Family YMCA, 1840 Meadowview Pkwy., Kingsport. 

Other fitness centers in Nashville and Jackson will also participate.

“Any home may have an elevated level of radon, even if other homes in the same neighborhood do not,” Abkowitz said. “Testing for radon in the home is the only way of knowing if radon is present. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends testing for radon in the home every two years. Identified radon problems can be mitigated or repaired.”

According to the American Cancer Society, being exposed to radon for a long period of time can lead to lung cancer. Radon gas breaks down into tiny radioactive elements that can lodge in the lining of the lungs, giving off radiation, which can damage lung cells and potentially lead to lung cancer.

To get a free radon test kit, visit: https://www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/opsp-policy-and-sustainable-practices/community-programs-and-services/radon.html online.

TDEC administers the Tennessee Radon Program through its Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices. Since 2008, TDEC has distributed more than 65,000 test kits. The Tennessee Radon Program is funded by the EPA State Indoor Radon Grant.

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