Every day, we’re bombarded by millions of harmful particles floating around in the world around us. In many cases, we can clearly see evidence of those potentially hazardous substances, such as clouds of smog, black plumes coming from factories, and smoke puffing out of vehicles’ exhaust pipes. We can often smell the toxins as well, like second-hand cigarette smoke, gas leaks, household cleaners, and countless others.
Not all dangers are so obvious, though. Radon is a prime example. It’s an invisible, tasteless, odorless gas that emanates from the ground and makes its way into the air. Though we can’t see radon, numerous people suffer from its effects. In fact, this indiscernible toxin is responsible for thousands of deaths each year. Understanding the dangers of radon gas and how to seek it out and neutralize it is the key to protecting your family from the potential risks of exposure.
Where Does Radon Come from? In a nutshell, radon comes from uranium. Uranium is a radioactive metal found in certain types of rocks. It’s in a constant state of decay because its nuclei are incredibly unstable. As uranium breaks down, it creates thorium and radium, both of which are also radioactive. When they decompose, they give off radon gas. This process takes place deep underground, but the radon gas rises to the surface and escapes into the air. Out in the open, the gas is dispersed enough to be fairly harmless. That said, it can accumulate in enclosed spaces, such as basements and crawlspaces. It’ll also permeate the rest of the house. When this happens, radon becomes much more concentrated and dangerous.
What Are the Health Risks of Radon Gas? Radon is a widely known carcinogen, meaning it’s a cancer-causing agent. When someone breathes in significant amounts of this gas over time, it settles in the lungs and gives off radiation. This causes cells in the lungs to mutate and become cancerous. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as many other sources indicate that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. It’s the primary cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is accountable for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year, and an estimated 14 percent of those are non-smokers. Extensive research has been conducted on possible links between radon exposure and other medical conditions. Some studies show a connection between prolonged exposure to high concentrations of radon and the development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Certain reports also state that radon may increase the risk of multiple sclerosis in certain instances. Some experts are quick to point out that evidence of those links is somewhat inconclusive, though.
Protecting Yourself from the Dangers Radon gas is found virtually everywhere though some areas have higher levels than others. It can certainly make its way indoors where it’s capable of greatly increasing the risk of lung cancer. Radon can also seep into wells and public water supplies; however, researchers haven’t found any definitive adverse health effects of radon exposure through water. Since this gas has no color or odor, you have no way of knowing if it’s present without outside assistance. Fortunately, help is available. You can have a radon mitigation professional measure your indoor concentration levels. Radon testing kits are readily available as well. You can find them at most home improvement stores as well as other online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
These kits are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. With most of them, you simply place a radon measuring device in a room and leave there for the amount of time specified by the included instructions. Once that time has passed, send the measuring device to the testing facility listed in the instructions. Some testing devices provide immediate digital readouts, but it’s important to measure radon levels over time rather than relying on a single figure.
Indoor radon levels should be less than 4 picocuries per liter of air. If your test results measure 4 pCi/L or higher, you should take further action immediately. Consider having a professional inspect your home for areas where radon can come inside, such as cracks or gaps in walls and floors. Those entry points should be sealed immediately, and you may need to have additional ventilation measures installed.
If you’re concerned about radon in your water supply, water testing kits are available as well. Should your water test positive for high concentrations of radon, you can have an aeration or granular activated carbon filtration system installed. Those are the only types of filtration systems that are effective for removing radon from water. Bottom Line Radon is everywhere, so there’s no avoiding it. Most people don’t realize they’ve been breathing in unsafe levels of radon until they’re diagnosed with lung cancer. Don’t hesitate to test your home for radon or have a professional do so. From there, several measures can be put into place to protect your family from the risks of exposure.