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Radon Reality: Why the Overlooked Gas Is a Health Hazard

Radon is invisible to the eye and has no odor. And even though it began worrying Americans starting in the 1980s, its mysterious ways seem misunderstood to this day. Yet according to UR Medicine’s Environmental Health Sciences Center, radon gas is second only to cigarette smoke as the leading cause of lung cancer. In the United States, radon is responsible for about 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

Two years ago, in a remote Kazakhstan village, residents began falling asleep for days at a time. Tests showed that villagers had an excessive accumulation of fluid in their brains, causing dizziness, inability to stand, fatigue and memory problems. Scientists first thought a virus or bacteria was to blame. Eventually, they concluded that radon from a nearby Soviet-era uranium mine had seeped up to the surface and was poisoning the villagers.

Dangerous Radon Can’t Be Seen or Tasted

How does Radon get into your home? Radon gets in through:

  • Cracks in solid floors.
  • Construction joints.
  • Cracks in walls.
  • Gaps in suspended floors.
  • Gaps around service pipes.
  • Cavities inside walls.
  • The water supply.

Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation.

Your home traps Radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a Radon problem. This means new and old homes, well sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.

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