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January Is National Radon Action Month

Posted on January 15, 2017 by Jeanne Roberts There have been 0 comments

(And it’s Time to Test Your Air, Says the EPA)

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, indoor exposure to airborne radon particles is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Moreover, it results in an estimated 21,000 deaths per year to individuals whose basements and crawl spaces are natural sources of radon. Most of those deaths are from lung cancer, but some are also causally linked to childhood leukemia.

The trouble is, radon is not like natural gas. You can’t see it or smell it.  The only way to detect it is to test for it, and that testing is only way you can determine if your family’s level of exposure is safe or cause for serious concern.

What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring, noble gas. The ‘noble’ doesn’t indicate its character, however. Noble gases (including helium, neon, argon, krypton and xenon) were once believed to be inert: that is, not able to interact or readily form compounds with other substances.

Since the 1960s, however, scientists have re-evaluated xenon, krypton and radon. Radon, in particular, is quite dangerous, primarily because it gives off alpha, beta, and even gamma radiation. These high-energy particles (given off during radon’s decay process from uranium-238 to polonium, bismuth, and lead) can kill cells.

Polonium, in fact, was the agent used to poison former Russian secret agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 – a particularly lethal form of assassination that required forensic pathologists to wear full protective gear, including vented helmets, or hoods, in order to perform his autopsy.

The half-life of radon’s decay process is 3.8 days – a very short time, in terms of exposure. However, when radon gas builds up in an enclosed space, like a mine shaft or a basement, the hazard increases exponentially. Science still isn’t sure of the precise mechanism, but it is known that smokers breathing this contamination more than double their risk of lung cancer.

What is Radiation?

Targeted radiation is useful when trying to rid the human body of a tumor. When the agent is radon, however, or other uncontrolled, high-energy emissions, the resulting indiscriminate action damages and destroys living cells. These mangled, deviant cells, with their burden of deformed DNA, then go on to cannibalize healthy tissue. This is why radon is catalogued as a Class A carcinogen.

For example, in living lung tissue, if one of the cells adjacent to a particle of decaying radon is damaged in a specific way, it becomes a cancer cell. Most radon damage expresses as small-cell lung cancer. Large-cell carcinomas are the least common. According to one study, heavy smoking increased the risks of developing radon-induced lung cancer by about 73 percent.

How Dangerous Is Radon?

According to the EPA, radon in homes causes more deaths than fires, drownings, and airplane crashes combined. In fact, radon accounts for more than half of the total exposure to radiation. Radon is also the second most frequent cause of lung cancer behind smoking.

How Much Radon is Safe?

A test result of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or less is considered safe. If your test reads higher than that, you should contact a qualified, licensed radon mitigation contractor. These individuals will install an exhaust-type system to vent radon outside, preventing it from entering the main living areas of your home.

If you are thinking of buying a home, check with your regional EPA office or access their national map of radon danger zones to determine if your new home will be in an area where radon levels are typically greater than 4 pCi/L. These maps provide state-by-state radon hazard information, state contacts for remediating radon in the home, and a list of radon information and protection programs and associations. If you are planning to build, be sure your contractor knows about radon mitigation construction standards.

You can also call 1-800-SOS-RADON.

The EPA’s National Radon Action Plan was initiated in 2015 as a joint effort by the agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, and nine national non-governmental organizations whose intent is to prevent 3,200 lung cancer deaths annually by 2020.

This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Health and Safety and was tagged with air quality, basement, carcinogen, childhood leukemia, crawl space, indoor air, lung cancer, NON-TOXIC, pCi/L, picocuries per liter, polonium, radiation, radon, radon testing, smoking


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