Exposure to radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. You should test your home for radon. If high radon is found, the radon level can be reduced - making your home more safe.
Radon exposure increases the risk of lung cancer. The U.S. EPA estimates that radon causes over 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General has stated that indoor radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Your chance of getting lung cancer from household radon depends on how much radon is in your home and on the amount of time you spend in the home. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As the particles further break down, they release small bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue. Over the course of your lifetime, this damage can lead to lung cancer.
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that occurs naturally and is found in most soils at varying levels. Radon is constantly produced from the breakdown of uranium in soil or rock. Radon gas is even present outdoors in very small amounts, but can become significantly concentrated inside buildings. Any type of home can have a radon problem: new homes, old homes, drafty homes, and well-sealed homes. Similar houses located next to one another may have very different indoor radon concentrations. The only way to know your home’s radon level is to test it.
The most significant source of radon in homes is the underlying soil. Radon gas in the soil can enter homes through dirt crawlspaces, cracks in the basement walls or floors, floor drains, or sumps. The air pressure inside a house is typically lower than the pressure in the air and in soil around the building. This difference in pressure causes the home to exert a slight “vacuum effect” that draws radon gas into the home. Basements that are considered “waterproof” are not necessarily “radon proof” because radon gas can penetrate even where water cannot. Because radon enters the home from the soil, lower levels of the home have greater radon concentrations than upper levels.
If water is supplied to a home from an underground well, there is a chance that radon may enter the home in the water supply. Typically the health risk from radon entering a home through the water is much less than the risk of radon entering the home through the soil. Homes receiving their water from surface water sources (such as lakes or rivers) do not usually have problems with radon in the household water. Most municipal water supplies get their water from surface sources. In Forsyth County NC, the City/County public water supply draws its water from the Yadkin River and Salem Lake.
All homes should be tested for radon to determine if there is a radon problem. If radon levels are high, the problem is fixable. The U.S. EPA advises that steps be taken to reduce radon levels in the home if the levels are at or above 4 picocuries per liter of air (4 pCi/L). There is, however, no “safe” level of radon. Radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk.
Testing your home for radon is not difficult. You could hire a professional radon measurement provider to do the testing for you. Alternatively, you could buy a test kit and do the testing yourself. The Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection sells radon test kits. We would be happy to sell you a radon test kit, but you do not need to buy your test kits from us. Test kits may also be purchased from various retail stores or over the internet. We encourage you to test your home by whatever means is best for you.
Our Office sells two types of radon test kits: Short-term test kits and long-term test kits. Our short-term kits are charcoal canister kits that can be placed in a home for 3 to 7 days. Our long-term kits are alpha-track kits that should be placed in the home for at least 91 days and up to a full year.
The cost for each type of radon test kit is $6.00 for a short-term kit and $14.00 for a long-term kit. To purchase a test kit from us you must come to our Office on the 5th floor of the Forsyth County Government Center at 201 North Chestnut Street in downtown Winston-Salem. Our Office hours are Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. We are closed on Forsyth County holidays.
We cannot send test kits in the mail. Payment may be made in cash or with a personal check. We are not able to accept credit or debit cards. Our radon program is designed for homeowner use. We do not sell radon test kits to radon testing contractors.
If testing verifies that your home has elevated radon levels, you should investigate having a radon mitigation system installed. Remember, The U. S. EPA advises that steps be taken to reduce the radon level in your home if the level is 4 pCi/L or higher. Professional radon mitigation providers can be hired to install a system in your home. There are several proven methods to reduce radon levels in homes, but the one most commonly used is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. The cost of a home radon mitigation system depends on your home’s location, size, construction, and level of radon. Many radon mitigation systems in our area cost in the range of $1,500 to $2,500.
Our Office has two radon specialists who are available to answer questions about
radon and to assist you in obtaining the proper type and number of test kits for
your particular home. For more information contact us:
Monitoring and Mobile Sources Division, Radon Program
by telephone: (336) 703-2440
or email us.
The U.S. EPA and the State of North Carolina both have useful radon websites. The EPA radon publications are very informative. The NC Radon Program website has lists of certified radon measurement and mitigation providers.