Published on 01/10/19

Clarke and Oconee County students take top awards in UGA radon poster contest

By Merritt Melancon

Gov. Nathan Deal recognized three students from northeast Georgia for their efforts to spread the word about the dangers of radon as part of the 2019 University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Radon Education Program Poster Contest.

The contest, conducted by UGA Extension Radon Education Program, invites students from across the state to create posters highlighting the dangers of radon, an odorless, colorless, flavorless radioactive gas present in some Georgia soils.

All three of this year’s finalists met with Deal on Jan. 7 to present their posters and thank him for his proclamation recognizing January as National Radon Action Month. Winners will be announced Jan. 24.

Almost 200 posters were submitted in the state-level competition, with three selected to enter the National Radon Poster Contest, sponsored by the Conference of Radiation Control Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Emma Starnes, a fourth-grade student at David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens, Georgia, placed with her poster featuring an anthropomorphized radon cloud explaining how he can seep in through cracks in basement walls.

Olivia Hawkins, a seventh-grade student at Malcolm Bridge Middle School in Oconee County, placed with her poster featuring a pair of lungs damaged by radon gas.

Blake Bernt, a fifth-grade student at David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens, Georgia, placed with her poster of a detailed house illustrating all the places radon can seep into a home.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that can seep through home foundations and into homes, making the air unsafe for residents. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. In Georgia, homes in the northern counties are more likely to have high levels of radon, but all homes are susceptible.

Radon can be extracted from homes, but only if families know that they need remediation services. Radon testing is not a part of basic home inspections that home buyers order when purchasing a home, but simple home radon tests are available from UGA Extension. To get a test kit, contact your local UGA Extension office or visit

The UGA Extension Radon Education Program celebrates student artwork while educating Georgians about the program through each January's contest in honor of National Radon Action Month. Nine- to 14-year-olds across the state can design a poster to help alert the general public about the dangers of radon and how they can keep their families safe.

The posters can focus one of five themes:

  • What is radon?
  • Where does radon come from?
  • How does radon get into our homes?
  • Radon can cause lung cancer.
  • Test your home for radon.

The deadline for entries is usually in September. Teachers and parents can learn more about the contest at

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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