Radon Action Month
To help protect Americans from the dangers of radon, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has designated January as Radon Action Month. Radon is a type of radioactive gas that can cause cancer. The reason it’s so dangerous is that you can’t smell, see, or taste it, even when you have a leak in your own home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon exposure causes the deaths of 21,000 non-smokers every year due to lung cancer. The EPA, CDC, and the American Surgeon General recommend that all Americans to regularly check homes, schools, places of employment, and other buildings for the presence of radon.
Where Does Radon Come From?
Radon collects in basements, hollows, and other low areas. This is because the density of gas present in radon is significantly greater than the density of air. Radon is an inert gas consisting of uranium and radium that goes through a process of radioactive decay. Some of the most common places you can find radon include:
- In your water supply
- Inside of cracks present in hardwood floors
- Cavities inside of walls
- Construction joints
- Wall cracks
- Gaps surrounding service pipes
- Gaps present in suspended floors
Home improvement contractors typically advise their customers to check for radon every time they complete a new project. However, you should still test for radon even if you never make any changes to your home or commercial building structure. The EPA recommends that everyone do this at least once every two years.
Spread the Word About Radon Awareness and Test Your Own Home
You don’t have to be the head of a large corporation to spread the word about radon awareness or take actions to keep the people closest to you safe. One of the simplest things you can do is talk to your family, friends, and co-workers who might not know anything about radon to let them know about the dangers of long-term exposure. You can also test the radon in your own home or business or hire a professional to do it for you. The radon level is too high if it reads above four picocuries per liter of air (pCI/L).
Most home improvement stores and many online retailers such as Amazon.com sell inexpensive radon detection kits. The instructions included with the kit tell you how to collect a radon sample and mail it to a laboratory for testing. Depending on the results, you may need to hire a radon mitigation company to eliminate the radon from your home or work environment. You can obtain your results faster if you hire a professional to do the testing and removal work. The EPA oversees two programs that can provide you with local referrals. These are the National Radon Proficiency Program at 800-269-4174 or the National Radon Safety Board at 866-329-3474.
Consider Radon in New Home Construction
You’re in an excellent position to reduce or eliminate your radon exposure if you’re buying a new home or having one built. When working with home builders, look for those who use radon-resistant new construction. As awareness of the dangers of radon grows, more home builders are getting on board with so-called green building practices. If you’re buying a home that already exists, you can negotiate with the seller to include radon testing before you agree to sign a purchase agreement.
Symptoms of Radon Poisoning
Most people don’t start developing symptoms of radon poisoning until they have been exposed to the toxic gas for many years. When the symptoms do start, they are often identical to those of lung cancer. The most common ones include:
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Frequent infections, including pneumonia and bronchitis
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
The American Cancer Society lists radon exposure as the second leading cause of lung cancer death behind smoking. It’s important to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss diagnostic testing at UPMC Western Maryland as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.