radon

Cómo ser más saludable en el 2012

Por Lina Younes

A principios del año, decidí que el 2012 sería el año en el cual me dedicaría a ser más saludable. Pensé que si fijaba esa meta como mi norte para los meses venideros, esta resolución tendría mejores posibilidades de sobrevivir más allá de enero.

Admito que para lograr ser más saludable, tendría que hacer algunos cambios en mis hábitos cotidianos. Cambios de estilo de vida y mejores selecciones definitivamente son requeridas para tener éxito en esta tarea. No hay duda que perder peso siempre encabeza la lista de las cinco resoluciones del Nuevo Año más populares. Sin embargo, cuando no vemos que las libras desaparecen al ritmo deseado, nos desilusionamos y regresamos a nuestras prácticas habituales que suelen ser nocivas a la salud. Entonces, ¿cuáles son algunos de los cambios en estilo de vida que necesitamos para alcanzar nuestra meta de ser más saludable? Bueno, yo comencé por hacer mejores selecciones al momento de comer. Por ejemplo, ¿qué tal le parece comer más frutas y vegetales? ¿Qué tal le parece consultar los viejos libros de cocina en busca de recetas creativas que sean no tan sólo más saludables sino también ofrezcan mayor variedad para el menú? Otro buen hábito—hacer más ejercicios. No estoy hablando necesariamente de buscar la trotadora que ha estado cogiendo polvo en el sótano, recomiendo el salir a caminar. Tomar caminatas más largas cuando saca el perro a pasear, por ejemplo. Es una buena manera de respirar aire fresco y hacer ejercicios sin un esfuerzo mayor. Y no se olvide de usar la crema para protegerse del sol aún en el invierno.

¿Quiere otras sugerencias para adoptar un estilo de vida más saludable? He aquí algunas:

  • Bueno, el reducir el exceso de papeleo y cosas amontonadas en el hogar es una buena manera de poner orden y crear un ambiente más sano y un estilo de vida más saludable.
  • El reciclar más es también un buen hábito en el hogar y en el trabajo.
  • Hacer la prueba del radón le ayudará.
  • El leer la etiqueta de productos químicos caseros antes de utilizarlos es esencial para proteger a su familia.

Estos son tan sólo algunos buenos hábitos para logar un 2012 más saludable. ¿Por qué no se compromete a tomar acción para ser más saludable y proteger el medio ambiente también? Visite la página de Pick5 de EPA (Elija 5) para ver algunas sugerencias.

Como siempre, nos encantaría escuchar su sentir sobre este tema. ¿Qué está haciendo para lograr un año más saludable para usted y su familia en el 2012?

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña la persona encargada de alcance público y comunicaciones multilingües en la Oficina de Asuntos Externos y Educación Ambiental de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. Antes de integrarse a la labor de la EPA, trabajó como periodista dirigiendo la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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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Winning with Radon

My name is Hayden.  I am a sixth grader from Athens, GA.  I entered a poster contest about testing your home for radon and won first place in the state and second place for the nation. I learned a lot about radon and how each year it kills more people than drunk driving.  Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Also, if you smoke, it can further increase your chances of getting lung cancer.

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas that can be found all over the United States.  It is a natural occurring element that comes from the ground.  Radon can seep through cracks or pipes and get into your home.  The odorless, invisible gas gets trapped inside buildings and houses which can be dangerous to your health.

Testing is the only way to determine the level of radon in your home, school or building. Radon detection kits are not very expensive and can be purchased online, as well as at hardware stores and other retail outlets.  The kits come with instructions that are easy to follow and should only take a few minutes of your time.

If you discover your home has high levels of radon, professionals can help reduce the amount of trapped radon and help you lower the risk of radon-induced lung cancer.  You can also build new homes that are equipped to be radon-resistant.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sponsors a national poster contest each year for children between the ages of 9 and 14. The radon specialists need your help in spreading facts about radon.  So get busy and spread the word that radon kills!   Visit www.sosradon.org to learn more about radon and to gather information about the annual poster contest.

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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Mobile Apps and Our New Year’s Resolutions

By Carmen Torrent

In January, people reflect on their lives and make a list of things they want to get, change or strike out. The tradition of making resolutions comes from ancient times. The Roman Empire established January 1 as the beginning of the year and placed Janus, a mystic god, as the guardian of the door of the New Year, and he became the symbol of the resolution. Janus has two faces representing beginnings and endings, one looking to the past and the other to the future.

Topping my list of resolutions this year is to be healthier, and part of being healthier is to maintain a healthy home. That’s why I decided to test my home for radon. Now that I know radon is the number two cause of lung cancer behind smoking, testing for radon is a high priority for me. While it’s true that we all start the New Year determined to carry out our resolutions, I know that as time goes by some are forgotten. Like my grandmother used to say, “It’s easier said than done.” And I didn’t want to forget this important resolution, so I came up with an idea that would help me achieve my resolutions this year, and I get to have fun using my new smartphone.

I recorded my resolutions on my phone and then I used a mobile application to remind me of my new year’s resolutions: “How do I test for radon?” And the app sent me to find out how to test my home and what to do if I have high radon. Try it; it’s fun! Never thought that I would put this technology to good use to protect the environment.

January marks the beginnings in many ways, and it’s also designated by EPA as National Radon Action Month. Radon is a radioactive gas; it is invisible and odorless. Radon gas enter the lungs when you inhale, the radioactive particles damage your lung tissue and can cause lung cancer. You can have a healthier home simply by testing your home and taking the necessary actions to lower radon levels. The only way to know if you have radon in your home is to test, and what a better time to test than in the New Year? For more information on health risks, visit

Today let’s look to the future. Do not wait; test your home for radon and make the necessary repairs to your home, it could save your life.

About the author: Carmen Torrent a public affairs specialist in EPA’s Office of Indoor Air.

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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Know your Surroundings

studentBeing a kid is wonderful. You see the world in a different perspective from grown-ups. You also feel a different way about things like the environment. Many people in the US take what they have for granted like clean air and clean water. My sister and I found out that 21,000 people in the US die due to radon every year; and we were shocked.  About 500 people die in Colorado each year from radon and not enough is being done about it.

Our family spends a lot of time in our basement which increases the amount of radon we inhale. I have asthma and this makes me passionate about promoting clean air. We started a Radon Awareness Project to spread the word about Radon. In the past year, we have helped a lot of people learn about radon, its harmful effects and what can be done to test for it and reduce radon levels.

Think of what you are passionate about and how you can help that cause. Being a kid does not mean you cannot make an impact. You could start in your backyard with being more green and recycling or tackle global warming.  Go take action!

Learn more at:  http://www.epa.gov/radon/justforkids.html and http://www.radonawarenessproject.com

Eric in Colorado is 12 years old and in the 6th grade.

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 – Why Do We Ignore It?

By Shelly Rosenblum

Psychology is fascinating, especially when you consider how we use it on ourselves – or against ourselves to be more precise. When do we use it against ourselves? When we put things off that are good for us, like cutting back on junk food, or skipping the gym, or when we hear someone tell us to test for radon and we don’t.

While it’s difficult to perceive how something we can’t see or smell can hurt us, is there something else stopping us from taking action? After all, the Surgeon General and public health organizations like the ALA and EPA tell us that radon is a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking. We usually take messages from these folks to heart, so why ignore radon?

Dr. Peter M. Sandman is an expert on risk communication. He helps people understand why we fear some things that carry little risk and overlook things which carry a huge risk – like radon. He describes this behavior with a formula: Risk = hazard + outrage. Outrage? What’s that? Suppose a company spills a toxic substance in your neighborhood, creating a health hazard. We’d be angry. Then suppose they’re not forthcoming about the quantity spilled and danger level. We’d be even more angry or OUTRAGED!

The more outraged we were, the greater the perceived risk. Even if the hazard was small, but the outrage large, we’d still perceive a large risk. Now apply this to radon: since it’s natural, there’s no one to be angry with – no outrage. With no one to blame, we somehow convince ourselves that the risk is smaller. This lack of outrage allows us to fool ourselves into not taking action. But consider this: if you found that your children’s school had not tested for radon, or if they had tested, found elevated levels and not told anyone, you’d be outraged – suddenly you would perceive the risk as huge – you would demand action. Consider further, one day your children may have reason to be outraged – at YOU – for not having tested the home they grew-up in!

Test, Fix, Save a Life. Testing is simple and inexpensive. The cost of fixing a home with elevated levels is comparable to other minor home repairs. It’s cheap insurance – against lung cancer and against having your children outraged at you! Learn more about how to test and fix your home.

About the author: Shelly Rosenblum works on the Radiation & Indoor Environments Teams at EPA’s Region 6 Office in San Francisco, CA.

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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El radón puede ser radiactivo y causar cáncer pulmonar, pero ¿acaso puede activar las alarmas en una planta de energía nuclear?

Hay muchas cosas que usted puede hacer por su salud.  Yo, yo voy a vivir para siempre.  Yo como vegetales, tomo vitaminas, hago ejercicios, compro productos orgánicos, evito los productos químicos, utilizo un filtro de aire, y tomo té verde. ¿Sabe en qué debería estar pensando?.  Bueno, el año pasado, escribí acerca de cómo hice la prueba de radón en mi casa, ¿se acuerda? Treinta años atrás, la prueba de radón no estaba en la lista de deberes para tener una casa y un cuerpo sano.   De hecho cuando estaba pequeña mis padres no hicieron la prueba de radón en nuestro hogar.

¿Por qué hice la prueba de radón en mi casa? Es simple. Pensé en el señor Stanley Watras y su familia.  El señor Watras trabajó como ingeniero de construcción en la planta de energía nuclear Limerick en Pensilvania.  Un día mientras entraba a la planta, se activó la alarma de radiación.  ¿Cómo sucedió esto?, es un misterio ya que no se había traído material radiactivo a la planta.  Los investigadores en búsqueda de la fuente de radiación, finalmente, decidieron hacer la prueba de radón en su casa.  Increíblemente, la cantidad de radón a la que el señor Watras estaba expuesto en su casa (foto abajo) era suficiente para activar las alarmas de radiación en una planta nuclear.  El nivel de radón en el hogar de Watras era de un promedio de 2,700 pCi/L. En mi casa el nivel de radón era cerca de 6 pCI/L.

Radon

Aunque  el nivel de radón en mi casa no estaba activando ninguna alarma de radiación,  aun se consideraba alto.  La Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés) recomienda que se reduzca el radón en su hogar si es de 4 pCi/L o mayor.

El primer paso para prevenir el cáncer pulmonar debido al radón es hacer la prueba de radón en su hogar; pero esto no va a cambiar nada a menos que usted haga algo al respecto.   Si los niveles de radón en la casa del señor Watras se pudieron reducir de 2,700 pCi/L a  menos de 4 pCi/L, también los suyos pueden reducirse.  Visite la página web de la EPA para más información, incluyendo cómo encontrar un profesional calificado en radón que pueda hacer la prueba de radón en su hogar, hacer la prueba o realizar operaciones de mitigación.  También podrá aprender acerca de cómo se puede construir una casa nueva con características resistentes al radón.

Acerca del autor: Jani Palmer es una científica en el Centro para el Radón y Tóxicos del Aire de la EPA en la División de Entornos Internos.  Ella ha estado trabajando en la calidad del aire interior  y en el campo de la higiene ambiental hace más de 10 años, dando sus servicios como consultora ambiental tanto a distritos escolares como a la industria y las agencias públicas.

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 May Be Radioactive And Cause Cancer, But Can It Set Off Alarms In A Nuclear Power Plant?

By Jani Palmer

There’s a lot that you can do for your health. Me, I’m going to live forever. I eat my veggies, take vitamins, exercise, buy organic, avoid chemicals, use a pleated air filter and drink green tea. Know what else you should be thinking about? Well, last year I wrote about how I tested my home,  remember? Thirty some years ago, testing for radon wasn’t on the list of things to do for a healthy home and body. When I was a kid, my parents certainly weren’t testing for radon.

Why did I test my home? Simple; I think about Stanley Watras and his family. Stanley Watras worked as a construction engineer building the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant in Pennsylvania. As he entered the facility one day, he set off the radiation alarm. How this happened was a mystery since no radioactive material had yet been brought into the plant. Investigators searched for the source and finally decided to test his home for radon. Incredibly, the amount of radon to which Mr. Watras was exposed at home (photo below) was sufficient to activate radiation alarms in a nuclear power plant. The radon level in my home was about 6 pCi/L; the level in Stanley Watras’ home averaged 2,700 pCi/L.

While the radon level in my home wasn’t setting off any radiation alarms, it was still considered high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends action to reduce radon if the radon level in your home is 4 pCi/L or higher.

Testing your home is the first step, but it’s not going to change anything unless you take action. If the radon in Stanley Watras’ home can be reduced from 2,700 pCi/L to under 4 pCi/L, then so can yours. Visit EPA’s radon home page for more insight, including how to find a qualified radon service professional to test or mitigate your home, and how to build a new home with radon-resistant features .

About the author: Jani Palmer is a physical scientist in EPA’s Center for Radon and Air Toxics, Indoor Environments Division. She has been in the indoor air quality and industrial hygiene field for more than 10 years providing environmental consulting and services for school districts, industry and public agencies.

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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Boogiemen and Radon

By Jeanethe Falvey

Both are colorless and odorless. Both, I believe are also in the gaseous phase, but to tell you the truth when I was little I didn’t stick around in any darkened room or hallway long enough to find out for sure. I booked it to my room well before any chance of that.

Radon and boogiemen each have the potential to come up into your house from your basement, this I know. The biggest difference however, is that radon is unquestionably real, despite the fact that you can’t see, smell, hear or taste it. As a result, there are quite a few more facts available about radon too.

About 1 in every 15 homes has elevated levels of this naturally occurring, radioactive gas. Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium which is just about everywhere in the rocks, soil and water on Earth. It can become a problem for your health if your home traps elevated levels of it. Radon can move up through the soil from bedrock, soil or groundwater underneath your home and can come inside through cracks or holes in your foundation.

Luckily for you and your families, it’s easy to test for and the remedies often cost the same as other minor home repairs. Put bluntly, testing for radon and fixing the problem can save your life. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

This month, we’re asking you to take action and test for radon as part of your Pick 5, for the health of you and your loved ones.

Learn more from Dr. Oz about radon and check out our map of radon zones too. Even if you live in a ‘low potential area’, be safe and test anyway as every home is different. Have questions? Use our map of EPA contacts by state for local information nearest to you.

It’s an easy Do-It-Yourself project: test, fix, save a life. Now if only getting rid of boogiemen were so simple.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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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Science Wednesday:Five Letter Word for an Inert, Radioactive Gas

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection.Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Jack Barnette

The other day, I was trying a rather difficult crossword puzzle when I stumbled across this clue – a five letter word for an inert, radioactive gas. Well, it’s got to be R-A-D-O-N. I know that one because radon and indoor air quality issues are a big part of my job at EPA. I wish the rest of the puzzle was that easy!

January is National Radon Action Month, so I’m blogging to increase awareness of radon’s dangers – and fortunately, here I can provide a lot more information than a crossword clue.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from radioactive uranium in soil and rocks. Since radioactive materials break down and change over time, you might guess that uranium disintegrates. It does, into radium, and after more time, radium disintegrates into radon. Since radon is a gas, it moves around easily through soil and flows from the ground into the atmosphere or into homes, schools, and other buildings. Are you starting to get why I’m concerned with the radon levels in homes?

It’s crazy but true that our own homes can actually make it easier for radon to enter. Take where I live for example; in our cold Midwest climate we need to heat our homes. As we heat the air, the warmer air rises and creates higher pressure upstairs and lower pressure downstairs, or what I can best describe as a low-powered, but steady and insidious vacuum sucking on the soil underneath the house. Yeah, my house sucks! This is a major reason why we see elevated levels of radon in some buildings.

What’s even more insidious is that while you can’t see or smell radon it can still harm you.. Radon releases alpha particles as it continues to break down. In your lungs, alpha particles slam into tissue and cause damage. Breathing in too many alpha particles can cause serious health consequences, including cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and the first cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

To protect the health of yourself and your family from radon, remember these tips: Test, Fix and Save a Life. The only way to know if you have elevated levels of radon in your home/school is to test. If you find high levels (4 picoCuries/L or more), fix your home – it’s easy, and might just save a life; check out EPA’s radon website. I wish the rest of the puzzle was as easy as testing for radon!

About the author: Jack Barnette is an environmental scientist with the Air and Radiation Division in EPA’s regional office in Chicago. Mr. Barnette has been with the U.S.EPA since 1984. Before joining EPA Barnette worked for the Illinois state environmental agency. Mr. Barnette works on a number of environmental and public health issues including indoor air quality, radiation protection, asthma education, and air monitoring.

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.

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.