What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of uranium in rocks and soil. It is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas. Radon Gas seeps up through the ground and spreads in every direction as it enters the atmosphere. Radon can be dissolved in water and released into the atmosphere when the water is used. Fortunately, Radon gas is minimal outdoors. However, in areas without adequate ventilation, such as crawlspaces and basements, radon can accumulate to levels that substantially increase the risk of lung cancer.
How can you be exposed to radon?
Radon is a part of the air you breathe. Low levels of radon in the air that you breathe are normal. If you breathe higher levels of radon you could be at risk of developing lung cancer.
Radon enters your home through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations, and collects indoors. Building materials such as granite or water from wells can increase radon levels in your home. It can also be released from building materials, or from water obtained from wells that contain radon. If your home is well insulated and tightly constructed you could have higher levels of radon. In addition, if your home is built on uranium rich soil you could have higher levels of radon. Radon levels are typically higher in basements and first floors..
How may radon cause you to get cancer?
Radon like uranium decays giving off tiny radioactive particles. Damage to the cells that lines your lungs can occur when tiny radioactive particles are inhaled. If you breathe radon that may be trapped in your home for a long enough time you may develop lung cancer. Thus far, lung cancer is the only form of cancer caused by radon and it maybe the second leading cause of lung cancer in this country.
Will you be one of many people to develop lung cancer because of radon exposure?
We certainly hope not! According to the cancer.gov the most common cause of lung cancer is caused by smoking. Again radon appears to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 deaths from lung cancer per year are related to radon according to cancer.gov.
The majority of deaths is related to a combination of both cigarette smoking and radon gas. This number is greater than those that are exposed to just higher levels of radon that don’t smoke. There fore, smoking increases your risk of developing lung cancer when exposed to elevated radon levels.
How did scientists figure out the role radon plays in causing you lung cancer?
It became notable because underground miners died at substantially higher rates than other groups from lung cancer. Further studies seem to confirm that animals that are exposed to radon develop higher rates of tumor growth.
What was learned about lung cancer and radon gas?
There is a general consensus that radon causes cancer in humans. Recent research of people with lung cancer shows more people are ill from homes that higher levels of radon. It is safely concluded, you are more at risk of getting lung cancer if your home has higher levels of radon.
822 people in Georgia may die of cancer on average each year according to an article in the AJC dated Feb. 26th 2010. The article later stated, “The EPA has drawn a red splash on its Georgia radon map, showing that homes, schools and businesses in the metro area’s four core counties – DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb – are at highest risk for elevated radon levels.”
There have been studies conducted all over the world about people perhaps just like you having higher radon levels in their home and getting lung cancer. There are inconsistencies between studies. Partly due to small sizes of some studies, different levels of radon in homes and determining exposure levels over time.
Studies here in the United States combined with our Canadian neighbors gives our researchers’ better analysis. As a result, thousands of people were analyzed. It was determined to be a slight increase in the risk of getting lung cancer due to exposure to household radon. The studies on underground miners and household radon levels were consistent.
How can you know if your home has elevated level of radon?
You must test your home to determine if it has higher levels of radon. Definitely, test a home for radon before you buy. There are many factors like soil conditions, how radon enters the house and other factors that make each house unique. Just because your neighbor’s home tested fine does not mean your home does not have higher levels of radon. Environmental factors such as precipitation, pressure and other factors can very radon levels from month to month and day to day. There are short term and long term kits available.
We recommend you use a short term kit before buying your next home for a general idea. A long term kit is a better choice in determining your unique risk factor. Short term kits generally run between 2 and 4 days. Long term kits on the other hand runs over 90 days. Contacting a local Home Inspector that test for radon can help you in determining what’s best for your unique situation.