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Radon educator says cancer-causing gas is common in Georgia homes

Tests available from county extension office

POSTED: June 21, 2009 11:48 p.m.

Though radon may sound like something from another planet, it’s actually a dangerous substance found throughout Hall County.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is a product of the decay of uranium.

"We’ve gotten enough data to know where some problematic areas are in Hall County," said Ginger Bennett, a radon educator with the University of Georgia’s Radon Education Program.

Bennett said radon can come from soil and rocks and though it is found all over the U.S., it is common to North Georgia.

"If your house sits on dirt, it’s most likely a question of how much, not a question of if you have radon," Bennett said.

Exposure to high levels of radon is known to cause lung cancer.

"It is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers," Bennett said.

In 2007, officials estimate more than 800 people in Georgia died of cancer caused by radon exposure, though there is no definitive way to know what caused the cancer.

"Of the Southern region, Georgia has the highest number of deaths believed attributable to radon," Bennett said.

Tests are available at the county extension office to determine if a home has a high level of radon gas. If a test comes back with high results, Bennett said homeowners should consider installing a ventilation system.

Currently, there are few areas that have addressed the problem.

"I do know there are some movements nationally to put in some building code and regulations that would require all houses to be tested in a real estate transaction," Bennett said. "But that’s a long way off."

Bennett will be speaking to the Hall County Board of Commissioners July 20 about radon in the area.

Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said radon is not the only odorless, colorless gas that could be present in homes.

"When it comes to poisonings, they call carbon monoxide the silent killer," Cagle said. "That’s why that carbon monoxide alarm is so important."

People need to be aware of carbon monoxide, which is emitted from things like cars and gas grills, Cagle said.

Cagle said grills should be operated at least 10 feet from a home to lower the risk of exposure, and cars should not be left running in a garage.

Hall County Fire Services gives out free alarms, which will detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.



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