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Radon Health Effects

Health

The effects of radon on your health can be serious; deathly serious.  In conducting radon tests in various homes and businesses throughout the years, I have noticed a great deal of confusion on this topic.  How can radon be harmful to my health?

First things first – What is radon?

Radon is part of the radioactive decay chain of uranium in the ground.  When uranium decays, it turns into radium.  When radium decays, it turns into radon gas.  Breathing in an extensive amount of radon gas allows it to get into the lining of your lungs.  WebMD reports that having this occur over a long period of time can lead to lung cancer.  There have been a number of studies directly linking radon with lung cancer. 

A Cancer Causer

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer for the general population and the number one cause of cancer for non-smokers.  The number one cause, not surprisingly, is smoking. Second hand smoke is the third biggest cause.  

According to the EPA, radon is responsible for roughly 21,000 who die of lung cancer every year.  But it’s worse if you are a smoker and have elevated radon levels at home.  Of this 21,000 that die, roughly 2,900 are from people who have never smoked.  The remaining 18,100 were smokers!  

The Health Effects of Radon

I have had clients tell me that they have developed skin rashes or they have blurred vision.  Sometimes they start sneezing uncontrollably.  Sometimes they have back pain.  Does this mean that they have high levels of radon?  Although their symptoms are definitely something that should be checked out by a medical professional, it is almost never associated with radon.

The effects of radon will not be instantly noticed.  Just like smoking, it may take years before the harmful side effects occur.  WebMD reports that “You won’t have symptoms of radon poisoning right away. Instead, health problems from the exposure, such as lung cancer, show up after many years”.  A nagging or bloody cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain are a few of the symptoms of this cancer.  By all means, please see a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

Another important note is that you can’t see radon.  You can’t smell it; you can’t feel it.  The only way you know for certain if you have elevated levels is by testing.

What to do?

Fortunately, there is a very easy solution to the problem.  The EPA recommends having your home tested for radon and if necessary have a radon mitigation system installed.  The costs are generally not excessive and will give you peace of mind in greatly reducing your chances of getting this disease.   

Radon Health Effects Conclusion

Elevated levels of radon can be a big health concern, but at the same time, it’s a problem that can be easily addressed.  Have a professional test your home for radon and, if high levels are found, consider installing a mitigation system.  These simple acts will significantly reduce your chances of getting lung cancer and help you to breathe easier in your home or place of work.

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”