The Radon Problem

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The Radon Problem


You can't see radon. And you can't smell or taste it, but it may very
well be a problem in your home. It is estimated to cause many thousands of
deaths each year. Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas, and when you breathe
air containing the gas, you can get lung cancer. In fact, radon has now been
declared the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.
Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has
high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Radon can be found all over the United States. It comes from the
natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets in to the air
you breathe. Radon can get into any type of building, homes, offices, and
schools and build up to high levels. But you and your family are most likely
to get your greatest exposure in your home because that is where you spend
most of your time.

Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk form
radon. The Environmental Protection Agency along with the Surgeon General
recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. It is
inexpensive and easy to do the testing and it only takes a few minutes of
your time. Millions of Americans have already had their homes tested. Radon
from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems although it can also enter
the home through well water. And in a small number of homes, certain kinds of
building materials may give off the gas, too. However, the building materials
rarely cause the problem by themselves.

It have now been determined that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the
U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Elevated levels of radon gas
have been found in every state including homes in your state.

The public has only recently started showing interest in this deadly,
cancer-causing gas. Contact your state radon office for general information
about radon in your area. While radon problems may be more common in some
areas, any home may have a problem. Home buyers and renters are now asking
about radon levels before they buy or rent a home.

While radon in water is not a problem in homes served by most public
water supplies, it has been found in some well water. If you've tested the
air in your home and found a radon problem, and your water comes from a well,
contact a lab certified to measure radiation in water to have your water
tested. If you're on a public water supply and are concerned that radon may
be entering your home through the water, call your public water works.

Since there is no known safe level of radon, there can always be some
risk. But the risk can be reduced by lowering the radon level in your home. A
variety of methods may be used to reduce radon in one's home. In some cases,
sealing cracks in floors and walls may help to reduce radon. In other cases,
simple systems using pipes and fans may be used to reduce the gas. Because
major renovations can change the level of radon in any home, always test
again after you have any work done. There are reliable test kits available
through the mail, in hardware stores and certain other retail outlets.

Like other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty about
the magnitude of radon health risks. However, more is known about the risks of
radon than from most other cancer-causing substances. This is because
estimates of radon risks are based on studies of cancer in humans such as
underground miners.

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