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Watauga County is shown on this EPA Map of Radon Zones as among counties in the nation that have the highest potential for elevated indoor radon levels. Submitted illustration

Originally published: 2012-12-23 17:19:21
Last modified: 2012-12-23 17:19:21

Watauga ranks at high risk for elevated radon

by Anna Oakes

January is National Radon Action Month, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urges residents to test radon levels in their homes.

According to the EPA, exposure to radon in the home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

“Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people’s homes,” said Dr. Maria Neira of the World Health Organization, quoted on the EPA website. “Radon is the second most important cause of lung cancer after smoking in many countries.”

Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. Radon is a form of ionizing radiation and a proven carcinogen.

Lung cancer is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air, the EPA said, and thus far, there is no evidence that children are at greater risk of lung cancer than are adults.

For most Americans, their greatest exposure to radon is in their homes, especially in rooms that are below grade (e.g., basements), rooms that are in contact with the ground and those rooms immediately above them, the EPA said.

According to an EPA Map of Radon Zones in the U.S., Watauga County is designated a Zone 1 county, meaning it has the highest potential for indoor radon levels greater than 4 picocuries per liter. EPA recommends that homes be fixed if the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.

Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in the home by up to 99 percent, the EPA advises, and most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. Seek a qualified radon mitigation contractor.

Free radon test kits are available at the Watauga County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension, located at 971 W. King St. in Boone.

For more information, visit