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Radon Summary

Radon Information

Radon Characteristics

Radon Effects to Human Health

Radon Exposure

Radon & Smoking Relationship


Mold and Environmental Knowledge

 

Know More About Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas found in some homes that in sufficient concentrations can cause health problems. It is an odorless, colorless, tasteless inert gas formed by the natural breakdown, or radioactive decay, of the radium that occurs in trace amounts in soils and rocks.

 

Radon comes from uranium and radium in Earth and rock beneath home, well water, building materials, natural gas, etc. Its major sources of radon are: soil that contains radon-releasing material; water and natural gas that has passed through underground areas containing radon; solar-heating systems that use radon-emitting rocks to store heat; granite rock; and uranium or phosphate mine tailings.

 

Radon is usually found in areas with basements. Sufficient concentrations of it may cause serious health problems. The longer you are exposed to radon, the higher the health risk is. There are no immediate symptoms, such as radon-induced lung cancer that would usually occur years (5-25) after exposure to radon. Lung cancer is the only health effect which has been definitively linked with radon exposure. This is because radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, the particles release small bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue and can cause lung cancer.

 

Surveys have shown that smokers are at higher risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer (ten times greater risk than ordinary people). Getting chances of getting lung cancer and other radon-induced health problems depend on the amount of radon in your home; the amount of time you spend in your home with radon; and your smoking habit.

 

Radon is a major cause of lung cancer. Radon gas when inhaled increases the risk of this type of cancer. Other than chain smokers, studies have shown than the rate of underground with lung cancer has increased. The air in the mines had high levels of radon and other radioactive compounds. Although these levels were higher than home levels, there is also some risk associated at lower levels.

 

In order for radon to cause lung cancer, the gas molecules must directly contact the lung tissue. Damage to DNA may occur when alpha particles, a radon by-product, attach to lung tissue. Smokers are at increased risk since one radon component, radon daughters, can stick to smoke particles or dust. In fact smokers have 20 times risk of non-smokers similarly exposed to radon.

 

Exposure to radon through inhalation is generally associated with the highest risks. The risk from ingestion of water poses a reduced health hazard. The risks associated with inhalation are 5 times higher than the risks from ingestion. Since radon evaporates from water, the total risk from radon in water includes to components, a small amount that is inhaled and the amount ingested.

 

How do you assess a level of radon concern? Each home provides a unique set of circumstances. The radon levels in the home will be affected by many factors such as: radon levels in air as well as in water and the ventilation rates within the home. The source of highest concentration, usually air levels, should elicit the attention.

 

To detect for radon, look for radon test kits that say “meets EPA requirements.” The test should be conducted when windows and doors are closed and placed in the basement. If a high level of radon is found, a second long-term test (at least 3 months’ duration) is recommended to give more accurate information about radon in the home. Radon generation into homes is higher during winter months.

 

Radon Characteristics

Radon Information

Radon Effects to Human Health

Radon Exposure

Radon and Smoking Relationship

 

Adapted from: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • 1992, A Citizen’s guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Radon (2nd Edition)
  • 1993, Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon
  • 1992, Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction: How to Reduce Radon Levels in Your Home
  • 1992, National Residential Radon Survey: Summary Report

 

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