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SC DHEC Offers Free Radon Test Kits

A free radon test kit

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, it is estimated that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer-related deaths. As part of Radon Action Month, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) is providing free kits for residents to test their homes for the invisible, odorless, tasteless gas.

Richelle Tolton is Radon Coordinator for DHEC. She said elevated levels of the naturally-occurring gas have been found in almost every county in South Carolina, but testing would help paint a more detailed picture of where elevated levels are.

"Our program initially started in the area of predicted mapping that had been done in the late 1980's and early 1990's." Tolton said that work had primarily been done in the upstate area in Greenville County. "But as the program grew, we've expanded and we have seen the elevated amounts. In some counties, we haven't had enough testing to really be able to say whether there are elevated levels there," she added.

On its website, SC DHEC explains the two types of radon test kits.

  • Short-term tests offer a quick and cheap way to test for radon. Short-term tests take from two to 90 days (depending on the device used). Once the test kit is submitted to the laboratory, lab results usually take two to four weeks to be received. Keep in mind that test results can only measure the radon levels in your home during the test period.
  • Long-term tests stay in place for more than 90 days. The results from a long-term test give a better picture of your family's actual radon exposure.

What do radon test results mean?

The amount of radon in your home is measured in pico Curies per liter of air (pCi/L). The EPA recommends that there be no more than 4 pCi/L of radon in your home. This is referred to as the "action level." The action level is the point where the risk of radon exposure justifies the cost of repairs. Because there is no completely safe level of radon, the EPA also recommends that you consider fixing your home if you find radon levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L.

"If you do major structural changes to your home, then you would want to test at that point to see how that may have impacted the changes to the home and how it traps radon gas," Tolton said.  The coordinator added using the kit should be easy, but assistance is available.

"We provide instructions and also we are available by phone to walk anyone through it. But it is fairly straight forward."

Below, Tolton explains what happens after a home tests positive for elevated levels of radon.

LISTEN: Tolton shares 'next steps' if a home tests positive for elevated levels of radon.

SC DHEC provides free radon test kits once every three years.  A free radon test kit may be ordered from DHEC's website at www.scdhec.gov/radon or by calling 1-800-768-0362. Radon kits may also be purchased through the National Radon Program Services or ordered directly from radon testing companies. If your home is found to have high levels of radon, the level may be greatly reduced by relatively low-cost home repairs.

Thelisha Eaddy is the local Morning Edition host for South Carolina Public Radio.