Radon causes more deaths than drunken driving

Jan. 8, 2013 at 12:36 AM
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ATHENS, Ga., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Radon -- a tasteless, odorless, invisible radioactive gas -- kills more Americans every year than drunken driving, U.S. researchers say.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension home safety and public health educators are urging homeowners to reduce their risk of exposure to the silent killer. Radon is the most common cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and causes about 21,000 U.S. deaths a year.

Radon, a naturally occurring gas that seeps from the ground as uranium deposits decay, is always in the ambient air, usually about 0.4 picocuries per liter, or pCi/L. At that level, radon is not harmful, but over time the radioactive gas can become concentrated in the air inside homes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said levels of 4 pCi/L or more are high. The lower the radon level, the less cancer risk. The air inside the average home contains about 1.3 pCi/L of radon. Experts recommend mitigation, which involves installing a ventilation system, for any home that has 4 pCi/L or above.

In Georgia, all homes are at risk for radon infiltration, but the northern third of Georgia is where most of the high levels are found, said Becky Chenhall of the University of Georgia's Extension Radon Education Program.

Radon testing is cheap and easy, and families can purchase a kit for $8 from their county extension office or for $10 online at www.ugaradon.org. The cost for a kit from UGA includes the lab analysis and a follow-up from a UGA radon educator if test results are high.

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