Each year, as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused by radon gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General’s Office, making radon the second largest cause of lung cancer.
Since radon has no color, odor, or taste and readily attaches itself to airborne particles such as dust, it can easily infect homes and workplaces undetected. The EPA has set the recommended action level threshold for radon exposure at 4 pCi/L, yet a family home with this level of exposure would mean the inhabitants were being exposed to 35 times the level of radiation the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow them to experience while standing beside radioactive waste.
What exactly is radon?
If you haven’t heard of radon, you aren’t alone. In its simplest terms, radon is a dangerous radioactive gas. It’s colorless, odorless and tasteless, making it very difficult to detect without the help of residential radon testing services.
Radon is a single atom, enabling it to easily penetrate household materials such as plastic, paints, and paper as well as building materials such as sheetrock, mortar, wood, and concrete. Likewise, the particle is water soluble, making it possible for radon to pollute your water.
There are two types of radon: radon-222 and radon-220. Radon-222 is a created during the radioactive decay of uranium. Radon-220 is created during the decay of thorium. Radon-222 is more common in our everyday environment as it readily attached to other airborne materials such as dust.
Radon is naturally occurring and is not produced commercially, though it has been used in spas for its purported health benefits. It may also be used as a catalyst in chemical reactions. Radon is most commonly found in ingenious rock or soil but can also infect well water.
Radon exposure occurs most commonly through inhalation while in the home. Naturally occurring, radon may exist in the ground or building materials of your home. Groundwater containing high levels of radon can lead to radon poisoning through ingestion, but it is more commonly inhaled during evaporation.
Who is at risk of radon exposure?
The short answer is anyone and everyone is at risk. Studies have indicated children may be particularly sensitive, perhaps due to the higher rate of their respiration and increased cell division during growth. Adults who work underground or in confined air spaces are also at increased risk of radon exposure. Public baths, spas, caves, and other underground venues may contain high levels of radon as the gas is naturally exhaled by rock and soil.
How do you protect yourself and your loved ones?
The first step to protecting yourself is limiting your exposure. The only way to know if you’re currently being exposed to radon in your home is through residential radon testing services. Since there are no immediate symptoms and radon is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, it’s possible for you and your family to be being exposed without your knowing it.
The EPA, Surgeon General, National Safety Council, American Medical Association, and the American Lung Association all advise residents to hire residential radon testing services to test their home for radon.
Residential radon testing services can determine the level of radon in your home with the use of detectors and tests. Short-term detectors are placed in your home for two to 90 days during radon gas testing. Long-term detectors can also be installed to measure the average concentration of radon gas over a period of three months or longer. If radon is detected, there are means of reducing the level of radon in your home to acceptable levels. From do-it-yourself approaches to professional certified radon mitigation and abatement companies, there’s no reason to live with radon in your home.
Scientists have estimated that 5,000 lives could be saved each year simply by reducing the levels of radon in homes. If you haven’t had residential radon testing services come to test your home for radon, now is the time to do it. The longer you and your family are exposed to this radioactive gas, the more likely you are to develop life threatening conditions such as lung cancer. Protect yourself and your loved ones by keeping your air and water safe and radon-free.