January is National Radon Action Month

Most people have heard of radon and know it’s one of those “bad things,” but not many people understand just what radon is, where it comes from, or who is at-risk for its adverse health effects. To help spread awareness on this cancer-causing substance, January has been dubbed National Radon Action Month. Radon is a radioactive gas, and the National Cancer Institute indicates the substance can cause lung cancer in individuals who are exposed to it in high quantities. SEE ALSO: Do you know if your child’s school has toxic levels of radon? What most people don’t know, however, is that everyone is exposed to radon everyday. The gas is present in all air and is the natural by-product of normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium and radium in rocks and soil. “Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates,” state materials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.  Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.  About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.” How do people become over-exposed to radon? If radon naturally occurs in the environment, why is it that some people are exposed to enough to develop cancer? The answer to this question, according to the EPA, has to do with how mankind has evolved into living in modern homes. Thousands of years ago homes were not as airtight as they are today. Structures were sturdy enough to keep out rain and wind, but gasses released from the earth were able to filter out into the atmosphere. Now, with how modern building has sealed in homes, gasses like radon become trapped inside with nowhere to go. The EPA estimates as many as 1 in 15 homes in the United States have elevated radon levels. The gas enters the home through crack in the foundation, holes from plumbing, through poorly sealed joints and other gaps in building materials. Once it gets inside the home it starts to build up, sometimes even entering through well water itself. Because radon is an odorless, colorless gas, it is impossible to know if a home has elevated radon levels without actual testing. “Short-term detectors measure radon levels for 2 days to 90 days, depending on the device. Long-term tests determine the average concentration for more than 90 days. Because radon levels can vary from day to day and month to month, a long-term test is a better indicator of the average radon level,” states the American Cancer Society. “Homes that are next door to each other can have different indoor radon levels, making a neighbor’s test result a poor predictor of radon risk. In addition, rain or snow, barometric pressure, and other influences can cause radon levels to vary from month to month or day to day, which is why both short- and long-term tests are available.” How can you reduce radon in your home? According to the EPA, the only way to reduce the levels of radon in a home is to use a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. While this system does not require any major changes to the home itself, it can be costly to install and still offers no guarantee radon levels will be reduced to a safe number. SEE ALSO: The health of Latin America depends on reducing black carbon Homeowners should take care to seal cracks in foundations and pipe systems; however, the same sealing practices that stop radon gas from entering a home can also trap it inside.The post January is National Radon Action Month appeared first on Voxxi.

Radon Action Month calls for home testing (Shutterstock)

Most people have heard of radon and know it’s one of those “bad things,” but not many people understand just what radon is, where it comes from, or who is at-risk for its adverse health effects.

To help spread awareness on this cancer-causing substance, January has been dubbed National Radon Action Month.

Radon is a radioactive gas, and the National Cancer Institute indicates the substance can cause lung cancer in individuals who are exposed to it in high quantities.

SEE ALSO: Do you know if your child’s school has toxic levels of radon?

What most people don’t know, however, is that everyone is exposed to radon everyday. The gas is present in all air and is the natural by-product of normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium and radium in rocks and soil.

“Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates,” state materials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.  Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.  About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.”

How do people become over-exposed to radon?

If radon naturally occurs in the environment, why is it that some people are exposed to enough to develop cancer? The answer to this question, according to the EPA, has to do with how mankind has evolved into living in modern homes.

Thousands of years ago homes were not as airtight as they are today. Structures were sturdy enough to keep out rain and wind, but gasses released from the earth were able to filter out into the atmosphere. Now, with how modern building has sealed in homes, gasses like radon become trapped inside with nowhere to go.

The EPA estimates as many as 1 in 15 homes in the United States have elevated radon levels. The gas enters the home through crack in the foundation, holes from plumbing, through poorly sealed joints and other gaps in building materials. Once it gets inside the home it starts to build up, sometimes even entering through well water itself.

Because radon is an odorless, colorless gas, it is impossible to know if a home has elevated radon levels without actual testing.

Basements can crack
Cracks in a foundation can allow in radon. (Shutterstock)

“Short-term detectors measure radon levels for 2 days to 90 days, depending on the device. Long-term tests determine the average concentration for more than 90 days. Because radon levels can vary from day to day and month to month, a long-term test is a better indicator of the average radon level,” states the American Cancer Society. “Homes that are next door to each other can have different indoor radon levels, making a neighbor’s test result a poor predictor of radon risk. In addition, rain or snow, barometric pressure, and other influences can cause radon levels to vary from month to month or day to day, which is why both short- and long-term tests are available.”

How can you reduce radon in your home?

According to the EPA, the only way to reduce the levels of radon in a home is to use a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. While this system does not require any major changes to the home itself, it can be costly to install and still offers no guarantee radon levels will be reduced to a safe number.

SEE ALSO: The health of Latin America depends on reducing black carbon

Homeowners should take care to seal cracks in foundations and pipe systems; however, the same sealing practices that stop radon gas from entering a home can also trap it inside.

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