Did you know lung cancer can afflict people who have never smoked a day in their lives? Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and it kills 21,000 Americans every year. Radon can enter homes and buildings through cracks in solid floors, construction joints, wall cracks and cavities, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, and even through the water supply.
Radon is a gas that forms naturally when radioactive metals like uranium, thorium, or radium break down in rocks, soil, and groundwater. Radon is invisible; you can’t see, smell, or taste it. When you breathe in radon, radioactive particles from radon gas can get trapped in your lungs. Over time, these radioactive particles increase the risk of lung cancer. It may take years before health problems appear.
Radon comes naturally from the earth, and people are always exposed to it. Radon in air can come through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes. Some homes have higher levels of radon than others. A number of circumstances can change the soil and make your home vulnerable to radon exposure. Renovations, moving your bedroom to a different floor, changes in ventilation, the normal settling of the ground beneath the building, or even an earthquake can cause radon to enter your dwelling.
Having your home tested is the only effective way to determine whether you and your family are exposed to high levels of radon.
How can I reduce my exposure to radon?
To reduce high radon levels in your home and protect yourself from an increased risk of lung cancer, you can take action.
- Stop smoking and discourage smoking in your home.
- Increase air flow in your house by opening windows and using fans and vents to circulate air.Natural ventilation in any type of house is only a temporary strategy to reduce radon.
- Seal cracks in floors and walls with plaster, caulk, or other materials designed for this purpose.Contact your state radon office
Ask about radon-resistant construction techniques if you’re buying a new home. It’s almost always cheaper and easier to build these features into new homes than to add them later.