Camille Rosa, Marketing and Communications Manager
Radon is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that could be an uninvited guest in your house right now. Do you know whether your family is safe from its damaging and potentially deadly effects?
Every 25 minutes, a person in the U.S. dies of radon-related lung cancer. It is the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths and the leading cause of lung cancer among never-smokers.
Since radon gas naturally occurs, how does it become a serious health concern? Radioactive metals break down into the earth’s soil to form radon. Cracks in homes and buildings expose people to radon by allowing the gas to seep through. If uncontrolled, the gas can collect at harmful levels that can cause lung cancer.
The Link Between Radon and Lung Cancer
Studies show that radon is a cause of lung cancer in both smokers and nonsmokers. Many epidemiological studies completed over the past few decades confirm that unsafe levels of radon in homes increase the risk of lung cancer for those who live there. Radon is a radioactive gas that can get trapped in your lungs. Breathing in radon briefly is unlikely to cause lung cancer. However, long-term radon exposure can cause lung cancer.
The U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) estimates that radon causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. “It’s truly a public health issue, yet so many people are unaware of the danger that could be present in their own home,” says ABOH Executive Director, Nancy Torrison. “The cases of lung cancer caused by radon are preventable, but people need to be proactive about the safety of their home and get their home’s radon levels checked.”
Bonnie Mueller of Minnesota is a testament to radon-caused lung cancer. In May 2013, Bonnie was 48 years old, an active runner, and feeling good. A few weeks later, she noticed roving pains in her body and a persistent heaviness in her chest, alerting her there was a severe problem. After being referred to a pulmonologist, Bonnie learned she had a large mass on her left lung. She was soon diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. In a later discovery, unsafe radon levels found in her home likely caused the cancer. That summer, Bonnie faced a difficult journey of chemotherapy that ultimately stopped working. However, thanks to a new drug on the market, Bonnie’s tumors began shrinking. Today, against all odds and predictions, her scans show nothing at all.
Testing Your Home for Radon
As a radioactive gas that is natural to the earth, it is impossible to prevent all exposure. However, taking preventive measures against unsafe indoor radon levels is necessary for your and your family’s health and safety.
The EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of 15 homes in the United States has elevated radon levels. In the Minnesota Department of Health’s latest news release, Daniel Tranter, MDH Indoor Air Program supervisor, states, “Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in radon testing reported to us during home sales.” The release says that 2022 showed a nearly 40% drop in radon testing during home purchases.
To find out whether your home has a safe radon level, you must test it. Do you know your home’s radon level? If you don’t know your home’s radon levels, have recently completed a renovation project, are preparing to buy or sell a house, or spend more time in the basement or lower level, it is a best practice to test for radon levels.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average indoor radon level is about 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). A measurement of 4.0 pCi/L or higher necessitates action.
Radon test kits can be purchased online or at most hardware stores for less than $15. You can also hire a professional radon tester. Another option is to buy a radon monitor.
If you discover you have high radon levels in your home, the next step is to hire a professional to install a radon mitigation system. Mitigation comes with a cost, and that cost can be steep for some homeowners, but knowing if you have radon is the first step to preventing a possible lung cancer diagnosis in the future.
Take the first step and test your home. It could save your life.