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January 2019

  • January is National Radon Action Month

    January 1, 2019 - January 31, 2019

    Governor Haslam has signed a proclamation identifying January as National Radon Action Month for the state of Tennessee. Why is this important to the average citizen? Radon is an odorless, naturally occurring radioactive gas that can accumulate in buildings, and is responsible for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many of the buildings impacted by radon are homes, with the only way of identifying the presence of radon is by testing for it. The Tennessee Radon Program is offering a free test kit for residents to be proactive in protecting their family from this carcinogen. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is created through the breakdown of uranium, which is a radioactive element found in most soil and rocks. As uranium breaks down, radon gas is released and travels up through the surface of the earth and into the air. In open air, radon generally dilutes to safe levels. However, due to variations in home pressure levels, radon can easily be pulled into the air in basements, dens, and living areas, in those enclosed areas it can accumulate to levels that are dangerous for human exposure. Radon is odorless, colorless, and tasteless; you cannot see, smell, or taste it. Due to the karst topography in Tennessee, Tennesseans have a greater risk than many Americans of elevated radon exposure. While the Middle and Eastern parts of the state are more susceptible to occurence of radon, every county in Tennessee has reported high levels of radon in residences. Exposure to elevated levels of radon is linked to lung cancer. Radon is the second most common cause of lung cancer; only cigarette smoking leads to more lung cancer deaths. Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L), named after Marie Curie who discovered two radioactive elements and developed the term “radioactive.” The EPA action level of radon is 4 pCi/L; if a building tests at 4 pCi/L or greater, EPA recommends that mitigation action be taken to reduce the level to between 2-4pCi/L. However, EPA notes that there is no safe amount of radon exposure as even low levels carry radiation exposure. At a radon level of 4 pCi/L, there are approximately 12,672 radioactive disintegrations in one liter of air during a single 24-hour day. What do those numbers mean? Living in a home with a level of 4 pCi/L is approximately the equivalent of smoking 8 cigarettes per day. Is radon a problem in Tennessee? In November, the highest level of radon in the state identified through residential testing using TDEC’s free radon test kit program was 45 pCi/L, which is comparable to smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day. Out of the tests completed during November, 30% of homes tested above 4 pCi/L. That is 3 out of every 10 that are considered unsafe according to the EPA recommendations. Is your home one of those 30%? Since you cannot see, smell, or taste radon, it may be present in your home at elevated levels; the only way to know is to test your home. The Tennessee Radon Program, managed by TDEC’s Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices with assistance from the State Indoor Radon Grant through the EPA, is offering a free radon test kit to Tennessee residents. If your test results are high, certified radon mitigation professionals can effectively reduce the level of radon in a home to a safe level through measures which may be as simple as changes to the ventilation system. If your home does require mitigation, make sure to utilize a certified professional. The only way to know if your home has elevated radon levels is to test. Protect your family, test your home. See our website www.tn.gov/environment/radon for more information.

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  • ETSU Basketball Game

    January 3, 2019

    The Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices will have a booth at the ETSU basketball game. Radon information along with other OPSP programs will be available and staff will be present to answer questions.

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