As Tennesseans resolve in the New Year to lead a healthier lifestyle, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is bringing light to a health issue that goes beyond the gym by encouraging everyone to test for radon in their home.
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.
“People are very health conscious at this time of year, so it makes perfect sense to consider the potential for health risk at home,” said Kendra Abkowitz, assistant commissioner for the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices. “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 2019 as Radon Action Month and encourages all Tennesseans to be aware of potential health risks of radon and to take easy steps to test for radon levels where they live.
TDEC provides simple, do-it-yourself, radon test kits at no cost to citizens. For more information and to request a free test kit, visit tn.gov/environment/program-areas/opsp-policy-and-sustainable-practices/community-programs-and-services/radon.html.
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. The program offers a variety of other services and assistance to residents.
Radon is formed as a result of the breakdown of uranium, which occurs in soil and rock. Radon is odorless and invisible. It is known to exist in every county in Tennessee, and levels can vary greatly from building to building based on a variety of factors, including ventilation, building structure and weather events. Any home may have an elevated level of radon, even if other homes in the same neighborhood do not. 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.