An Accumulation Of Radon Gas Is The Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer, Especially In Seniors Who Spend Most Of Their Time In Their Home
Do you know what radon is or how dangerous it can be to your health? Do you know why testing your home for radon gas is so important? Pegasus home health care professionals in Ventura and elsewhere can answer these questions for you.
Radon is a natural gas that results from the decay of heavy metals such as uranium, radium, and polonium. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It is present everywhere in small amounts.
Due to the chemical structure of radon, products such as paper and plastic readily absorb it. It’s also absorbed by many building materials. Radon is soluble in water and some solvents.
Radon is in rocks, especially those formed by volcanic eruptions. It’s in dust or other airborne substances. Radon is present in groundwater.
Radon disperses quickly outdoors and is generally harmless. It is a serious problem when it accumulates in your home. It may be in the materials used in building your home, such as concrete and insulation.
The source of radon in your home is more likely the soil on which your home is built. It enters through cracks, gaps, or holes in the foundation. It also enters around pipes or wires, or through joints in walls or floors.
You may consume some radon in your drinking water, especially if it comes from a well. However, most of it will be in the air you breathe. The more time that you or your loved ones spend indoors, the greater your exposure to harmful radon.
Radon Is A Cause Of Lung Cancer
Airborne radon gas breaks down into tiny radioactive particles. Those particles lodge in your lungs, where they give off radiation. Radon poisoning itself doesn’t have any symptoms.
However, cell damage from the radiation can eventually lead to lung cancer. Radon is second only to cigarette smoking in causing lung cancer. Thousands of people die each year from radon-related lung cancer.
There are no tests for radon exposure. If you think you may have been exposed to harmful amounts, be aware of the symptoms of lung cancer. These include:
- Chest pain or tightness
- Coughing that is new or worsening
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath
You may want to talk to your doctor about monitoring your lung health to catch any early symptoms. Smokers compound their risk of developing lung cancer if radon is present.
Radon Is Everywhere
Radon is found everywhere. Every state has high levels of radon in at least one location. The only way to know how much is in your home is by testing.
You can buy a kit and do the testing yourself. Or you can hire a professional. DIY kits are usually passive, while professionals typically choose active kits.
Passive kits are usually short-term devices. They don’t need power. You leave them in place for a couple of days.
Once the time is up, you send the kit off for analysis. Each manufacturer provides instructions for packaging, labeling, and an address. They will then inform you of the radon levels in your home.
Active devices require power and measure radon levels for up to 90 days. The device is also returned to a laboratory for analysis.
Regardless of the device you choose, it should be placed in the lowest level of your home. Close the windows. Place the device away from drafts or humid areas, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to obtain an accurate measurement.
Radon Levels Can Be Reduced
Radon is measured in picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). Outside air often has less than 1 pCi/L. Indoor air averages about 1.3 pCi/L. A level of 4 pCi/L is considered high.
If the level in your home exceeds the average, you may want to take steps to keep it from getting higher. The higher the pCi/L level, the more urgent it is to reduce the amount of radon entering your home.
You can start by sealing up cracks and gaps with the appropriate materials. Increase circulation by installing fans and vents. A temporary fix is to open the windows to let in fresh air.
High radon levels may require the installation of a radon-reduction system. You will likely need to hire a contractor for that. Costs can vary significantly, depending on factors such as:
- Size of your home
- How it’s built (on a slab, basement, crawl space)
- Materials used to build it
- Levels of radon in the underlying soil
The Center for Disease Control has published a Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction. It contains extensive information on contractors, the types of systems available, and other tips.
January is National Radon Action Month. The US Environmental Protection Agency has downloadable resources to help you reduce your exposure to radon.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our home health care services in Ventura and our other locations are designed to keep you living safely at home. Keeping you informed about dangers such as radon is only one of the ways we’re here for you.