Radon is a radioactive gas produced naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, making it difficult to detect without special equipment. Radon can seep into homes and other buildings through cracks in the foundation, walls, and floors. This can pose a significant health risk to occupants exposed to elevated radon levels over long periods.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Lung cancer caused by radon exposure is responsible for more deaths yearly than other household hazards like carbon monoxide and house fires.
Fortunately, some steps can be taken to reduce the risk of radon exposure in homes and buildings. One of the most important is to test for radon. Radon testing kits are widely available and can be purchased online or at many hardware stores. These kits are simple to use and involve placing a small detector in the lowest livable level of the home or building for several days. The detector is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
If high radon levels are detected, several strategies can be used to reduce radon exposure. One of the most effective is to install a radon mitigation system. This typically involves sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation and installing a ventilation system to divert radon gas away from the building. Radon mitigation systems can be installed by trained professionals and typically cost a nominal fee, depending on the size of the building and the level of radon present.
In addition to testing and mitigation, several other steps can be taken to reduce the risk of radon exposure. These include:
- Improving ventilation: Increasing outdoor airflow into the building can help dilute radon gas and reduce indoor concentrations.
- Sealing cracks and other openings: Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation and walls can help to prevent radon gas from entering the building.
- Choosing building materials carefully: Some building materials, such as granite and certain types of concrete, can emit radon gas. Choosing low-emitting materials can help to reduce radon levels in the building.
- Moving to a lower level: Radon concentrations are typically highest in basements and crawl spaces. Moving to a higher building level can help reduce radon exposure.
By increasing awareness of the dangers of radon and reducing exposure, we can help protect ourselves and our families from this silent but deadly hazard. Testing for radon and installing mitigation systems are simple, effective strategies that can help to reduce the risk of lung cancer caused by radon exposure.