Radon is Odorless, Colorless, Tasteless…and Deadly

13 11 2008

ATLANTA (MyFOX ATLANTA) – Radon is all around in homes, schools and businesses.  The gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless and can become a silent killer.

Emerson Brooking spent most of his life growing up in his family’s north Georgia home, which was riddled with radon.

“I’m much more at risk for cancer now because of this odorless, colorless gas,” said Brooking.

Brooking’s father blamed himself for his son’s exposure to the dangerous gas.

“I definitely didn’t intend to gas my whole family with radioactive gas,” said the elder Brooking.

“The fact of the matter is a great many homes in north Georgia have elevated radon levels,” said radon expert Terry Howell.

Radon is a radioactive gas that is odorless, colorless and tasteless.  The gas comes from the natural decay of uranium in the soil, rocks and water.  The gas can seep into any building through cracks in the foundation and walls.

An estimated 22,000 people every year die from radon exposure.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second-leading cause of lung cancer in smokers.

“There is no safe level of exposure,” said Howell.

The EPA said radon exists throughout Georgia, mainly in low levels.  Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties are four major Metro Atlanta counties that are considered hot zones for high radon levels.

Home inspector Glenn Welch said all homes should be tested for radon even though it’s not required by Georgia law.

If the radon levels are high in a home, the solution is to install a mitigation system.   The system vacuums radon from the basement of a house, and funnels it out through a vent in the roof, where the gas dissipates and becomes harmless. 

The EPA measures radon in picocuries per liter of air.  The scale goes from low at .4 to high at 20.  Homes should be mitigated with readings of four and up.

“Turns out that the basement that I had built for my son, where he would play with his friends and hang out, there was 107.6,” said Brooking, Sr.

A crawl space in the Brooking home measured as high as 176.4, giving the Brookings’ home the dubious distinction of having the highest known levels of radon in Georgia.

“My son now has to have yearly chest x-rays,” said Brooking, Sr.

It has been three years since the Brookings installed a mitigation system and radon levels are in the safe zone.  While no family members have shown any signs of lung cancer, the greatest concern is for young Emerson Brooking.

“I lived 10 years in what my dad likes to describe as a gas chamber,” said Brooking, Jr.

Radon detectors can be purchased at home improvement stores for about $10.  Residents can also call their county extension office for a free radon test kit.

The University of Georgia has an office dedicated to educating the public about radon.  Call 1-800-ASKUGA1 to get a test kit.  The tests are easy to use and can be sent off for official results.

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