lung cancer

Please Test for Radon to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Lung Cancer

Do you know what the second leading cause of lung cancer is, after smoking? It’s radon, an odorless gas that can seep into your home. Because it cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled, it can be easy to forget.

The fact is, though, that EPA, the U.S. Surgeon General, and multiple leading public health advocates have all announced that about 21,000 Americans each year die from radon-induced lung cancer. That should make headlines, right? You would expect people to demand that something be done to stop it from happening. The threat from radon is real and we make the announcement each year during National Radon Action Month. Many of our families have been tragically impacted by lung disease, and lung cancer is a heartbreaking diagnosis.

Testing is the only way to know if your family’s home has elevated radon. Nationally, one in 15 homes are above the level at which the U.S. Surgeon General and EPA recommend taking action, which is four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. In many parts of the country high levels are even more common.

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Radon Risk? You Don’t Know Until You Test

By Henry Slack

My neighbors Pete and Beth (not their real names) met while in their twenties, and got married. A great couple. Had two beautiful girls, who grew up in no time at all – field trips and soccer, high school sports, college, adventures abroad. A strong couple, who helped lead the PTA, the band parents, you name it. Never smoked, good folks, the kind you like to have as neighbors.

Then Pete got lung cancer. They had some optimism over treatment, but the optimism faded as the disease strengthened, and he passed pretty quickly. Lung cancer, unfortunately, has a survival rate lower than many other types of cancer.

I don’t know for sure that Pete’s lung cancer was caused by radon. But, radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. Elevated radon is found in one out of 15 homes nationally, and the only way to know if a home has high levels is to test it.

As EPA’s indoor air guy for the southeast, I get calls every day. Most people are worried about mold. A few are worried about odors, or chemicals they may have been exposed to, or some health issue that they think might be related to indoor air quality. Very few people call with concerns about radon – and yet, radioactive radon gas kills more people than any of those other things that people call about. Radon kills over 21,000 people a year in the U.S.

Twenty-one thousand. That’s around 400 a week, every week, every year. Some of them are parents, spouses, partners, best friends, and neighbors who leave behind a world of grief for family, like Beth.

Test your home. It’s easy and inexpensive. You can get low-cost test kits online through the National Radon Program Services or other vendors. And if you have a high level – 4 picocuries and above – get your home fixed.

About the Author: Henry Slack has been the Indoor Air coordinator in Region 4 since 1991 and still enjoys it. A mechanical engineer by training, he’s on the Radon Team, but has had assignments to CDC and Barbados. In 2014, he became a Distinguished Lecturer for American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), speaking about mold, indoor air, and ventilation.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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It’s Time to Test Your Home for Radon

By Bob Dye

Football season is in full swing, leaves are starting to fall and furnaces will be heating our homes. With colder weather, people are spending more time indoors, sitting with their kids and friends, and watching their favorite college or professional teams on the tube. As people close up their house for winter to keep warm, it is an excellent time to test for radon.

U.S. EPA Radon PSA

U.S. EPA Radon PSA

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of naturally occurring radium and uranium in the soil. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and children are more sensitive to radon exposure as their lungs develop. The EPA estimates that as many as 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year are caused by radon exposure. Radon is colorless, tasteless and odorless, so the only way to know if your home has a problem is to test for it.

The EPA and the US Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon and if the levels are high, take steps to lower them. You can get low cost test kits through the National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University at http://sosradon.org/test-kits or you can contact your state radon program to find you where you can get a test kit.

Take steps to protect your health and your children’s health by testing your home. Order a test kit today. Get more information at www.epa.gov/radon.

Bob Dye is a radiation & indoor air specialist in EPA Region 7’s Air and Waste Management Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Winter is a Great Time to Test your Home for Radon!

By Larainne Koehler

January is National Radon Action Month.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays is over and, here in New York City, we are having some of the coldest weather in years.  Our doors and windows are closed against the cold, and that’s one of the first steps in getting a good results from a radon test.

By now some of you are asking – “What is radon and why do you need a test for it?”  Others are remembering that they have heard about it, but haven’t taken action yet – what are you waiting for?

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of naturally occurring radium and uranium in the earth.  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall and the LEADING cause in non-smokers.  The EPA estimates that as many as 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year are caused by radon.  Radon is colorless and odorless, so the only way to know if your home has a problem is to test for it.

The EPA and the US Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon and if the levels are high, take steps to lower them.  Now you may be thinking  – “How do I find a test?”  Ready for that one – New Yorkers can get a test kit from the New York State Radon Program by going to their website and downloading an application.  The cost is only $8.50 per test kit.  Follow the instructions and send the kit back to the lab for analysis.   If you are a New Yorker at heart, but not actually living in New York State, you can also get test kits for $15 through the National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University at http://sosradon.org/test-kits

So take a step to protect your health and order a test kit today.  Get more information at www.epa.gov/radon.

About the author: Larainne Koehler is the Radon and Indoor Air Coordinator for EPA Region 2 and has been working on issues associated with indoor air and radon since she joined the agency in 1984.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Radon: A Leading Environmental Cause of Cancer Mortality

By Dr Susan Conrath

Throughout my career as a Public Health Service Officer and EPA employee, I have always been surprised by the relatively low level of radon awareness throughout the country. Radon is a Class A carcinogen- we know that it causes cancer in humans. But, this huge environmental risk is not on most individuals’ “radar screens.” Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil. Since it is a gas it can easily move through spaces in the soil and escape into the air where it is diluted. However, when radon enters a home through cracks in the foundation or other openings, it becomes trapped inside and can accumulate. You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but it’s there. In fact, its discovery as an indoor air issue occurred when an individual, Stanley Watras, set off radiation alarms in a nuclear power plant because his home’s levels were so high.

Many people do not realize that radon is the number two cause of lung cancer in the U.S.; exceeded only by smoking. For never-smokers radon is the number one cause of lung cancer. Scientific studies have confirmed the risk and show no evidence that there is any “safe” level of radon.

As shown on our Health Risks Page radon-induced lung cancer deaths [at the U.S. average indoor air concentration of 1.3 picocuries/Liter of air [1.3pCi/L]] are in the same general range as deaths from leukemia and lymphoma and are greater than a number of selected cancers that we currently spend large amounts of money to research and/or combat.

Protect your family! The only way to know if you have radon in your home is to test. Testing is easy and inexpensive. If your level is high fix the problem. It’s one of the best investments you can make for your family’s health and it will enhance the future sales potential of your home by making it a healthier place to live. Learn more about how to test and fix for radon.

If you are building a house or having one built, radon-resistant new construction [RRNC] techniques can be used to avoid having to deal with high radon concentrations. It’s less expensive to install RRNC during construction than to have to fix a radon problem at a later date.

About the author: Dr Susan Conrath is a CAPTAIN with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She works in the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air as an epidemiologist and international expert on radon risk.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Resolve to Protect Your Family and Kick Radon Out of Your Home in 2009

About the author: Builder Fuad Reveiz* is a former professional football placekicker and a current
Member of the National Association of Home Builders. He has his own building and development company in Knoxville, Tennessee. He includes radon-resistant features when building new homes.

Recently the headlines have been pretty dire – crises in the financial and housing markets, a poor holiday season for retailers. Reflecting on this state of affairs a friend recently said to me, “at least I’ve got my health.” How right he was! I cherish my health and that of my family. As a builder, homeowner, and parent, I know that having a healthy and green home is extremely important in protecting the health of my family.

In my experience as a builder, homes built for health and safety sell faster. More and more of my customers know the importance of indoor air quality to their families’ health. They also know one of the most dangerous indoor air pollutants is radon. Some years ago, I learned about the health risks of breathing radon from the American Lung Association, and I learned about ways to build new homes so radon can be prevented from entering them.

Radon is a deadly radioactive gas that rises up from underground and can seep into any home. Breathing in radon can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking – and among non-smokers it’s the leading cause of lung cancer.

The good news is that homes can be built safer, healthier, and radon-resistant. The techniques to prevent radon from entering a home are practical and straightforward for any builder. It’s an inexpensive way to offer families a benefit that could reduce their risk of lung cancer. And it’s a smart way to build trust between builders and their customers. If you are looking to buy a new home, ask your builder about radon-resistant features or seek out a builder that builds radon-resistant to make your home healthier and greener at the same time.

I hope you’ll resolve to protect your loved ones by learning about radon, testing for it and kicking it out of your home. The winter season is a great time to get informed about radon, as January is National Radon Action Month, a time dedicated to increasing radon awareness. As someone who knows quite a lot about kicking, I suggest you kick off this New Year right because living in a healthier home starts from the ground up.
 
For detailed information about radon-resistant new construction, radon testing, and National Radon Action Month visit www.epa.gov/radon/.

*EPA does not endorse this particular builder or any other commercial service or enterprise.

 

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Question of the Week: What have you done to protect your home against radon?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, but it can build up inside homes and cause lung cancer (it’s number 2, after smoking). You can buy radon test kits to check for radon, improve home ventilation, and other things. January is National Radon Action Month.

What have you done to protect your home against radon?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.