Dangerous gases may be lurking inside your home. Most people are familiar with carbon monoxide. This deadly gas is colorless, tasteless and odorless. Each year, unintentional CO poisoning results in more than 400 deaths in the U.S.
There are several sources of CO in your home: fuel-burning appliances like water heaters, heating systems, space heaters, generators and fumes from vehicles idling in an attached garage.
The most common warning signs of CO poisoning are headache, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath and confusion. If someone is displaying these symptoms, get them outside the house immediately, then call 911.
There are several simple things you can do to prevent CO poisoning. One of the most important things is to install a battery-operated CO detector or one with battery backup near sleeping areas. You should also have your heating system inspected annually by trained service technicians.
Another deadly gas that may be in your home is radon. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, and second leading cause behind smoking. Each year, approximately 21,000 deaths in the U.S. occur because of radon. Like CO, radon is invisible, tasteless and odorless. Unlike CO, the effects of exposure to radon take longer to see. Over time, some people can develop lung cancer as a result of exposure to radon, whereas the effects of exposure to CO occur much sooner. Because of this, radon is often overlooked.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from the decay of uranium found in most rocks and soil. It enters your home through cracks in the foundation, exposed soil in basements and crawlspaces, and well water.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 1 in 15 homes in the United States has a high radon level (more than 4.0 picocuries per liter). According to the University of Georgia, 38 percent of Hall County residents have a radon level above the limit.
If you have a CO detector, it will not tell you if there is a high level of radon in your home. It only detects the presence of carbon monoxide. The only way to know if your home has a high level of radon is to test it. This is an easy DIY project. Radon test kits are available from several sources including local retailers, some county extension offices and by ordering online from UGA Extension at www.UGAradon.org.
Kits purchased online cost $13, and this includes the kit, shipping, lab analysis and results. If the radon level in your home is high, you can have a radon reduction system installed. If you think there may be radon in your well water, you may want to have the water tested. For more information, call your Hall County extension office, or visit www.ugaradon.org to learn more.
January is National Radon Action Month, so take action and test your home. Delaying testing can cause you and your loved ones to continue to breathe dangerous levels of radon. Reduce the dangerous gases in your home.
Source: Pamela Turner, UGA extension housing specialist
Carin Booth is the family and consumer sciences agent at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office in Hall County. She can be reached at 770-535-8293 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column runs monthly.