Radon

Information provided by the Department of Community Affairs

What is radon?
Radon is an odorless, tasteless radioactive gas produced by the natural decay of uranium found in soil and rock all over the US, including Georgia. Although radon is present throughout our environment, when high levels of radon enter a home or building, people are exposed to more of its radiation. The type of radiation that it produces is mainly an internal hazard and produces damage when we breathe air that contains radon, increasing our risk for lung cancer. Such a situation can easily be discovered and corrected, however.

Why is radon a problem in Georgia?
Because of its geology, much of the soil and rock in Georgia contains widespread uranium, especially in the Piedmont area of north and northeast Georgia. Uranium has a long decay chain that eventually breaks down to release radon gas. Therefore much of our state’s geology provides an ongoing supply of radon. However, no area of the state is radon-free. 

How does radon enter a home?
Radon is a gas able to move through spaces in the soil and rock under a home’s foundation. It can enter a home through the floor and walls anywhere there is an opening between the home and the soil (see list of Major Radon Entry Routes below). Examples of such openings include dirt floor crawl spaces, unsealed sump pumps, cracks in slab-on-grade floors, utility penetrations, and the tiny pore spaces in concrete block walls. A basement, of course, provides a large surface area that contacts soil material.

 

A. Cracks in concrete slabs.
B. Spaces behind brick veneer walls that rest on uncapped hollow-block foundations.
C. Pores and cracks in concrete blocks.
D. Floor-wall joints.
E. Exposed soil, as in a sump or crawl space.
F. Weeping (drain) tile, if drained to an open sump.
G. Mortar joints.
H. Loose fitting pipe penetrations.
I. Open tops of block walls.
J. Building materials, such as brick, concrete, rock.
K. Deep Well water (not commonly a major source in Georgia homes)

Why should I test my home for radon?
The Surgeon General of the United States issued a press release in January 2005 saying that every house in the US should be tested for radon. Testing is the only way to know if your family is at risk for lung cancer from breathing radon coming into your home. Homes with high radon levels should be fixed to lower that level.

Where can I find reliable information about testing my home or business and mitigating high radon levels?

The Georgia Radon Education Program is a partnership funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency and coordinated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for its partners the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Extension Service and Southface Energy Institute to educate Georgians on actions to take to protect themselves from the risk of developing lung cancer caused by the unwelcome entry of radon gas into their homes and businesses.

Visit the University of Georgia (UGA) Radon Education website, www.ugaradon.com, for information on home radon testing, finding certified radon testers and mitigators, selecting a mitigation contractor and purchasing a low-cost test kit.

You can also get a free test kit at Southface Energy Institute in Atlanta, but you have to pick it up at their office downtown. You can call them at 404-872-3549 for directions or go to www.southface.org/green-building-services/programs/radon for information on their programs, including education for builders on radon resistant new construction techniques and much more.

For real estate transactions, we recommend that you use a professional radon testing company, not a home test kit.  If you need information on how to deal with radon during a home sale or purchase, you can download the USEPA Home Buyers and Sellers Guide to Radon at www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/hmbyguid.html.  If a radon test has been done previously by the seller the results should be discussed as part of the disclosure process.

Regarding testing and mitigation (the term for reducing radon levels) there is no required state licensing for radon professionals in Georgia, but we strongly advise homeowners and others to only use testers and mitigators certified by one or both of the two national training and certification organizations. You can go directly to their websites to find a certified professional in your area:

If you need to contact a UGA Radon Educator about home radon testing or other matters, please email Ms. Ginger Bennett at bennettg@uga.edu or call 770-535-8290.