It's easy to pretend that radon doesn't exist because we can't see it, taste it or smell it. To many homeowners, it's "something that other people have to worry about," and they think, "How bad can it really be?"
Well, according to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, radon exposure is second only to smoking for causing lung cancer. And because it's a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is the result of uranium decay found in nearly all soils, trapping it in confined spaces can be detrimental to the inhabitants.
The gas moves through the ground and into the air. Most often, radon penetrates a home through cracks in walls and solid floors and other holes in the foundation, such as gaps around service pipes. It doesn't matter if a house is old or new, drafty or sealed. The gas gets trapped, and if the levels are concentrated enough, it can pose a health risk.
President offers Earth Day advice
Can't get enough of the Earth Day festivities? Try logging onto the White House's new Earth Day Web site.
The site not only includes a video of President Obama touting Earth Day's importance, it also directs you to a handy list, provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, called "Pick 5 for the Environment," that allows you to select from a menu of 10 green activities that you might like to commit to, such as conserving water, recycling and testing your home for radon.
Obama tells Americans in the video, "I want you to take action -- in your home or your community; at your school or your business -- to improve our environment. It can be as simple as riding the bus or the subway to work, making your home more energy-efficient, or organizing your neighbors to clean up a nearby park."
Radon levels at Washougal City Hall force changes
Air quality testing at Washougal City Hall revealed high levels of radon gas throughout the building, prompting the mayor to relocate most employees to other city buildings.
Exposure to radon, a natural component in soil gases, can cause cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The average indoor radon level is 1.3 picoCuries of radiation per liter (pCi/L) of air, the EPA says.
Testing in Washougal City Hall earlier this month measured levels between 11 pCi/L and 26 pCi/L, with the highest concentration in a closed basement storage area, Mayor Sean Guard said in a news release. Findings were received Monday.
A level of 4 pCi/L should prompt action to lower the radon level, the EPA says. Guard said the EPA stopped short of calling City Hall unsafe but said it required immediate action.
Q: My wife says I should be concerned about radon in our house. What kind of test should we use, and how often?
A: Radon, a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas, enters a home through cracks in the foundation, holes or cavities around pipes, through floor drains or sump pump openings.
Breathing it in creates no immediate symptoms, but over time, it can cause lung cancer and will significantly increase the risk of lung cancer among smokers who are also exposed to radon. More than 20,000 people will die this year after breathing too much radon without knowing it.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers offers the following tips to protect from radon exposure.
•The only way to figure out if your home has high levels of radon is to perform a test. There are two types of tests: short- and long-term.
Central Kentucky’s karstlands have long been a healthy source of tourism dollars, but that same topography carries increased health risks from radon gas, the leading source of lung cancer for nonsmokers. Health experts now say that radon risk has been shown to be more serious than previously believed and are strongly recommending that property owners here test for it.
An estimated 14 percent of lung cancer cases are attributable to exposure to radon gas, according to new findings by the World Health Organization. In the U.S. alone, the Environmental Protection Agency says that 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year can be attributed to radon.
A rare case of harmful levels of radon gas in a Thurston County home has been documented by an East Olympia homeowner and state health officials.
It raises a question about whether the naturally occurring, radioactive gas is present in other homes in the county.
The only way to answer the question is for homeowners to test their homes. Radon test kits are available at most home improvement stores for $25 or less.
“Testing is a worthwhile thing to do,” said Mike Brennan, a radiation health physicist at the state Department of Health.
About one of every three Americans will develop some form of malignancy during his or her lifetime. This year alone, about 1,437,000 new cases will be diagnosed, and more than 565,000 people will die of the disease. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in America, and as deaths from heart disease decline, it's poised to assume the dubious distinction of becoming our leading killer.
You don't have to be an international scientist to understand how you can try to protect yourself and your family.
The 10 commandments of cancer prevention are:
What We Found
EPA does not perform oversight of radon testing device accuracy or reliability. The 1988 Indoor Radon Abatement Act required that EPA establish proficiency programs for firms offering radon-related services, including testing and mitigation. EPA established and operated proficiency programs until 1998, when it disinvested in these programs. According to Agency representatives, EPA has neither the authority nor resources to ensure radon testing devices and testing laboratories are accurate and reliable. EPA asserts that it shares oversight responsibility with States and industry, including the two national proficiency programs operating under private auspices. However, without oversight, EPA cannot assure that radon testing devices provide accurate data on indoor radon risks or that radon testing laboratories accurately analyze and report radon results.