~ By John Streit, MPH, RRT, Program Director
American Lung Association in Colorado ~
Breathing clean air is something most of us take for granted, however radon is colorless, odorless, and could be a problem in your home. Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That’s because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. Although the association between radon exposure and smoking is not well understood, exposure to the combination of radon gas and cigarette smoke creates a greater risk for lung cancer than either factor alone. The majority of radon-related cancer deaths occur among smokers.
Radon is a radioactive gas and comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems, however in a small number of homes the building materials can give off radon, too, although building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels, and this number reaches 1 in 3 homes in Colorado. Colorado has extremely high levels of radon in its soils with 52 of 64 Colorado counties at high risk.
So how do I test to see if I have a radon problem? Even though you can’t see radon, itÕs not hard to find out if you have a radon problem in your home. A simple test you can do yourself will tell you if you need to take action to lower radon levels in your home. If the concentration of radon is more than 4 pCi/L you should take action to lower the radon levels in your home. You can visit the EPA website for more information concerning testing at www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html.
There are several methods a contractor can use to lower radon levels in your home. Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. The EPA generally recommends methods which prevent the entry of radon. Soil suction, for example, prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the home and venting it through a pipe, or pipes, to the air above the home where it is quickly diluted. Radon reduction systems work. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99 percent. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. Your costs may vary depending on the size and design of your home and which radon reduction methods are needed. Get an estimate from one or more qualified radon mitigation contractors. Hundreds of thousands of people have reduced radon levels in their homes. It is important that in this season where many of us are spending more days inside, that we protect our lung health by ensuring that the air we are breathing in is clean and safe.
For more information on lung health, call the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-548-8252) to speak to someone directly, or submit a question online. We’re here to answer your lung health questions!
Breathing Matters is presented by the Colorado Lung Health Connection http://www.lunghealthco.org