SEVIERVILLE — Thanks to a federal grant, residents of Sevier County and Tennessee’s 94 other counties can request a free radon testing kit.

Testing is crucial, as portions of the state have high levels of the radioactive gas that causes approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths nationwide each year.

Sevier County and multiple surrounding counties have been found to have especially high levels of radon in Tennessee.

“Our radon test kits were purchased with federal grant funds provided to the state of Tennessee via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency State Indoor Radon Grant,” said Kimberly Schofinski, deputy communications director for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “The cost of each kit is approximately $6.00, plus postage, and is entirely free for Tennessee residents.”

In the U.S., the average indoor radon level is 1.3 pCi/L, or picocuries of radon per liter of air. A test reading of at least 4.0 pCi/L is considered high.

The EPA has designated readings of at least 4.0 pCi/L as “actionable,” meaning steps should be taken to reduce the amount of radon.

TDEC maintains an online interactive map showing the number of radon tests in each Tennessee county. The map covers 2009-2020 testing.

The map shows 150 radon tests conducted in Sevier County.

Based on those tests, the average radon level in Sevier County is 6.5 pCi/L. The maximum radon level tested in Sevier County is 113.0 pCi/L.

Multiple bordering counties also have high average levels of radon.

TDEC’s interactive map shows an average radon level of 5.3 pCi/L in Jefferson County, with 48 tests completed. That county’s highest reading is 35.7 pCi/L.

Blount County’s average radon level, according to 160 completed tests, is 4.8 pCi/L. The highest reading there is 90.3 pCi/L.

There have been 872 tests conducted in Knox County, with an average radon level of 3.9 pCi/L. The highest reading is Knox County is 103.9 pCi/L.

Cocke County has an average radon level of 3.2 pCi/L based on the 25 tests conducted. The highest reading is 11.3 pCi/L.

According to TDEC’s website, the approximately 21,000 U.S. deaths caused by radon each year are considerably more than the number of deaths caused by other factors such as falls, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Each year in America, an estimated 8,000 people die from falls at their homes. The number of annual deaths nationwide due to home fires is approximately 2,800, and the number of deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning is about 450.

The risk of death due to radon increases for those who smoke inside their homes.

Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas.

Educational materials from TDEC state, “Radon is a gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown — or the radioactive decay — of uranium and can be found in bedrock beneath your home. It usually gets into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation ... There is no safe level of radon.”

A free radon testing kit can be ordered by calling 800-232-1139 or online at www.tn.gov/environment/radon. Tennessee’s interactive radon map can also be viewed at this site.

Additional information is available at www.cdc.gov/ephtracking.

Contact Juli at jneil@themountainpress.com or on Twitter at @NeilWatsonJ.

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