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Through Testing, More Residents Learn How to Protect Against Radon

Map of Radon levels in SC homes
Map of Radon levels in SC homes

A home test kit is available for residents to protect themselves against a danger they can't see, taste or smell. This test is placed in the lowest level of the home and can help protect against lung cancer.

On average, the state's health department issues about 1600 radon test kits each year. The tests are free, through the South Carolina Radon Program and help homeowners detect if the cancer-causing, radioactive gas is trapped in their homes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and the number one cause among non-smokers.

DHEC's Radon Program Coordinator Leslie Coolidge said consistently, the return rate on those 1600 tests is about 40 percent and depspite many of those being repeat testers, results are providing a snapshot of Radon levels across the state.

"We are seeing one county in South Carolina where more than half the results is slightly above EPA's action level."

In Oconee County, the average level of Radon found in homes tested is 5.0 picocuries (the measurement of radioactive decay per liter of air per minute). The EPA reccommends homeowners consider mitigation, when the average of two tests are 4.0 picocuries or higher.

"Even below 4.0 picocuries there is a risk to Radon," Coolidge said. "Greenville County and some other counties in the Upstate are close to that number."

Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and finds its way into homes through cracks and holes in the foundation, construction joints, and plumbing fixtures. The gas is odorless, tastless and colorless. The only way to detect it is through testing.

Coolidge said any home, regardless of age, style or location can have a Radon problem.

"It is a good idea to test every house because even two homes right next door to each other can have very different levels. It just depends on how much Uranium is in the soil under that particular house."

The South Carolina Radon Program offers a free home Radon test kit that can be requested at www.scdhec.gov/radon where there is also a quick overview video on how to use the short-term test kit.

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