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January is Radon Detection Month

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 @ 03:01 PM  posted by jbuytaert

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According to the American Lung Association every home should be tested for Radon

What Is Radon?

Radon is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that causes lung cancer.  Radon can build up to dangerous levels inside homes, schools and other buildings.  Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking. 

Radon gas occurs naturally. It forms when uranium breaks down to radium, which in turn breaks down to form radon.  As radon decays, it releases radioactive byproducts that are inhaled and can cause lung cancer.    Radon-related lung cancers are responsible for an estimated 21,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Where Does Radon Indoors Come From?

Radon is emitted from the ground and enters a home through cracks in walls, basement floors, foundations and other openings.  Because radon comes from rock and soil, it can be found anywhere.  Exposure to limited concentrations, like those found outdoors, is impossible to avoid.  However, when radon gets trapped indoors, it may build up to dangerous concentrations.

The most important source of radon gas indoors is the soil and rock surrounding the building.  By sealing your home to keep radon from getting through cracks and openings, you can significantly reduce your home’s radon levels.  You may need to install a separate radon ventilation system in your home to remove high levels.

Less frequently, radon may enter buildings from radon-contaminated drinking water used in bathroom showers and sprays, though this occurs only when the water comes from a private well.  More recently, concerns have been raised about the radon released indoors from granite countertops or tiles.  However, these sources are rarely a problem by themselves. 

What Are the Health Effects of Radon?

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, responsible for thousands of deaths each year.  Exposure to radon causes no immediate symptoms, but the long-term threat of lung cancer is significant to everyone.  People who have never smoked make up approximately 2,900 of the estimated 21,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths each year.

The health hazard does not come directly from radon itself, but rather from the radioactive particles that are emitted as radon decays.  Those particles can be inhaled into the lung and bombard your cells with dangerous, cancer-causing radiation.

Smoking and radon exposure can separately increase the risk of lung cancer.  However, exposure to both greatly enhances that risk.

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