Radon: How Does it Affect my Health?

February 17, 2012

Radon may not be a commonly known health concern in one’s home.  Mold, asbestos and even pesticides may be associated with illnesses.  However, radon is the naturally occurring, invisible gas that can affect your health more than you may realize.

What is Radon? And where is it in my home?

 Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that is formed from deposits of uranium within soil, rock and water.  Radon can easily be found in mines, building materials, and water extracted from wells.

In your home, radon is most likely to be found in basements and ground floor rooms that may be in contact with soil.  Radon can enter your house through:

  • Cracks in concrete slabs or blocks
  • Floor/wall joints
  • Exposed soil, as in a sump
  • Loose fitting pipes
  • Building materials
  • Water

What are the health risks caused by radon?

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.  If small particles infected with radon are inhaled, they can become lodged in mucus membranes within the lungs.  The particles infected with radon that enter the lungs will then radiate and penetrate the cells which can then begin the process of carcinogenesis (the creation of cancer).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15 percent of lung cancers worldwide are caused by radon.  Those who smoke are three times more likely to develop lung cancer if exposed to radon in comparison to non-smokers (based on a 0.4 pCi/L).

WHO has been in the in the process of spreading awareness of this silent killer since 2005.  Counties working with WHO on the International Radon Project (IRP) are working on developing public health guidance within the countries in order to formulate a policy and a strategy based on radon levels.  The IRP is also working on methods for measurements and the mitigation of radon, and the development of better communication about radon.

How can I prevent radon from affecting my health?

The U.S. Surgeon General and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highly recommend that all homes be tested for radon.  The EPA collected data regarding radon within U.S. homes.  The survey found that approximately six million homes suffer from elevated radon levels that can affect one’s health.

Getting your home tested for radon can be a simple process.  Do-it-yourself test kits can be purchased at your local Home Depot.  Try the Pro Lab Radon Test Kit for just $9.98.  At home kits can be a great way to check for radon within your home. However, if you suspect that you may be exposed to elevated levels of radon, it is important to find an EPA-qualified company, such a Lewis Home Inspection, to conduct an in-depth test for radon in your home.

There are various types of radon tests that can be done in your home.  Radon levels can vary from day-to-day and season-to-season, so be sure to try different tests at different times of the year to check for radon in your home.  Radon test devices include charcoal canisters, alpha track detectors, liquid scintillation detectors, electrets ion chambers, and continuous monitors.

Do you have radon in your home?  You may not even know if this silent killer is around your family so be sure to test your home before it is too late.  Radon can affect your health, so stop it before it stops you.







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