Kernersville, NC -- It's odorless, colorless and tasteless. So how do you know if Radon is there? The short answer is you have to do a test.
Is it really important? The National Cancer Institute estimates between 15,000 and 22,000 cancers deaths in the U.S. are related to radon.
Dana Reeve, Superman's wife, died of lung cancer believed to be due to radon gas exposure.
How Radon Gas Forms
Radon is in the air right now. But out in the open, it's dissipated. Radon becomes toxic when it is in a confined space and is concentrated.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey all rocks and soils contain Uranium. Some have minimal amounts others much more.
The elements like Uranium and Radium decay over time and as they decay they emit gas. It seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air. With ventilation, the radon gas levels are low and not a danger.
But when it's in a confined space, the particles accumulate and are dangerous when we breathe them in.
Radon gets in your house. through cracks in foundation, loose fitting pipes, from your sump area.
Most houses draw less than 1% of their indoor air from the soil, but if there are these cracks and crevices houses can take in 20% of their indoor air from soil.
A Home Inspector Finds Radon At His Own House
"Here in my house, we had a problem. My neighbor no problem. Two doors down, they had a problem, " says Scott Dampier, "You don't know if you don't' test."
Scott tests his house for Radon every year. He's a home inspector with HouseMaster.
"After we had the earthquake in 2010, I bought a new (radon) monitor." He tested it in his house and the radon gas measurement was a 10! The North Carolina danger threshold is a 4.
"I went out to the truck got a new monitor, same thing! I got another monitor."
Scott had a problem that even a professional couldn't pinpoint by simply looking around his house.
"You can't see if you have a problem. You're not going to see those problems no matter how much you walk through the house."
While the majority of radon comes into your house from the ground your house sits on and where your family plays Scott says, all too often, we bring it in.
"We can have problems in bathrooms and kitchens. we put granite in those places. The granite comes out of the ground and we can be bringing higher concentrations of radon into our houses."
So do people need to get rid of their granite countertops? Scott says no. But he said it's something to be aware of.
Again, if you don't test, you don't know if you have a problem.
Radon In Our State
The Piedmont and West have a higher concern for radon. Rockingham county is in the state EPA red zone. That means the area has a predicted average indoor radon screening level greater than a four.
Forsyth, Stokes, and Surry counties are in the orange zones. The predicted level is between two and four.
The rest of the Triad and East is in the yellow zone which is less than two.