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Test your home for radon

May 20, 2012
Reinbeck Courier

When it comes to reducing your cancer risk, one important step could be right under your nose, or below your feet. Getting your home tested for radon can help protect you and your family from a key cause of lung cancer.

Exposure to radon accounts for about 20,000 deaths from lung cancer each year according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While that is nowhere near the 443,000 deaths a year caused by smoking, it's still significant. And it's the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. The American Cancer Society estimates deaths per year Iowa are caused by radon-induced lung cancer. This is about the same number of annual deaths seen in Iowa due to traffic fatalities.

Radon is a gas that occurs naturally outdoors in harmless amounts. It's produced from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks. It sometimes becomes concentrated in homes built on soil with natural uranium deposits. It can enter buildings through cracks in floors or walls, construction joints, or gaps in foundations around pipes, wires or pumps. Radon levels are usually highest in the basement or crawl space.

When radon gas is breathed in, it enters the lungs, exposing them to small amounts of radiation. This may damage the cells in the lining of the lungs and increase a person's risk of lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer is higher in those who have lived for many years in a radon-contaminated house.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer risk from radon is much lower than that from smoking. However, the risk from radon is much higher in people who smoke than in those who don't. Exposure to the combination of radon gas and cigarette smoke creates a greater risk for lung cancer than either factor alone.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) surveys in Iowa have found that 7 in 10 homes radon concentrations above the US EPA's radon action level of 4 picoCuries/Liter (pCi/L). The average indoor radon concentration in Iowa is more than six times the national average.

Fact Box

KEY INFORMATION ON RADON

Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil.

Radioactive particles from radon can damage cells that line the lungs and lead to lung cancer.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

When radon gas is breathed in, it enters the lungs, exposing them to small amounts of radiation. This may damage the cells in the lining of the lungs and increase a person's risk of lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer is higher in those who have lived for many years in a radon-contaminated house.

Radon is not detectable with human senses. However, testing is easy to perform and low cost. If you find out that your radon levels are high, you can take steps to lower the amount of radon in your home. The most common method is to install a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. Term tests can be purchased at most hardware stores and from the American Lung Association by calling (800) 383-5992. A list of licensed radon measurement professionals is also available from the Iowa Radon Program at www.idph.state.ia.us/eh/radon.asp

As with most home repairs, the cost of reducing radon in your home can vary widely, depending on how your home is built (whether you have a basement, crawl-space, or neither) and what kind of system you need.

There are no widely available medical tests to measure whether you have been exposed to radon. But if you think that you have, talk with your doctor about whether you should get regular health checkups and tests to look for possible signs of lung cancer. Possible symptoms include shortness of breath, a new or worsening cough, pain or tightness in the chest, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing.

The American Cancer Society knows that diet, exercise, smoking, and other lifestyle choices you make all impact your overall health and your risk for cancer. Getting your home tested for radon is another important first step you can take to help protect yourself and your family from lung cancer. As the nation's largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing about $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year.

The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

Join the movement to end cancer by participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life of Grundy County that will held on June 9th at the Grundy Center High School track.

 
 

 

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