According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon gas causes more deaths than drunk driving, fires, drownings and airplane crashes — more than 20,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. It is the no. 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
You can’t see, smell or taste radon. Worse, it may very well be present at a dangerous level in your home. Here’s the good news: This problem is easily preventable with a few simple and inexpensive adjustments, according to experts.
If this is true, do you not owe it to yourself to learn about radon and how to prevent becoming a statistic? Proverbs 22:3 says, “Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later.” — Good News Translation.
That need not be us. Lung cancer from radon is not something we want to live to regret. In general, lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and melanoma cancers combined. If there is a way to avoid lung cancer, a sensible person should be interested.
The EPA has declared January National Radon Action Month. The Surgeon General and the American Lung Association have taken action to help prevent these needless deaths by recommending that all homes in the U.S. be tested for radon regardless of location or foundation type.
What is radon? The World Health Organization Handbook on Indoor Radon, calls it “a noble gas formed from radium, which is a decay product of uranium. Uranium and radium occur naturally in soils and rocks.”
When this naturally occurring gas that seeps out of rocks and soil is inhaled, particles emitted by radon can interact with tissue in the lungs, leading to DNA damage, which can increase the development of cancer.
Outside air contains very low levels of radon, but it can build up to higher concentrations indoors when it is unable to disperse. These particles can easily be inhaled and adhere to the lining of the lung, emitting a type of radiation called alpha radiation, which has the potential to damage lung cells.
Experts say this “alpha radiation” cannot reach cells in any other organs, so it is likely that lung cancer is the only potentially important cancer hazard posed by radon.
Tom Kelly, former director of EPA’s Indoor Environments Division, said “We know that radon is a carcinogen. This research confirms that breathing low levels of radon can lead to lung cancer.”
If even low levels of radon can lead to lung cancer, what can be done to keep this enemy out of your home? There is a simple and inexpensive way of making sure you and your family is safe.
You can purchase a $15 short term test kit (3-4 days), which includes all costs, or a $25 long term test kit (3-12 months), which includes all costs, by going online at www.sosradon.org. or calling 1-800-767-7236. You can then use the tests’ serial number to access your results at www.radon.com.
If a home with a vent system is found to have an elevated radon level, a fan can be added at a low cost. Allowing more air circulation and air ventilation indoors is a good idea whether we are exposed to radon or not, since other air pollutants can cause persistent and even serious health issues.
The average cost to install radon-resistant features in an existing home is estimated to be $800 to $2,500. The average cost to install radon-resistant features in a new home during construction is $350 to $500, according to experts.
There are some federal programs that might be used to help fund radon reduction in homes that are affordable to limited-income families. These programs generally give money to local agencies or groups, which then fund the work.
One example is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. For further information, call the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 202-708-3587. For more information on the “203k Program” for funds to repair single family homes, call 202-708-2121.
There are also Environmental Justice Grants which fund community-based organizations and tribal governments addressing environmental concerns of people of color and low-income communities. For more information, call the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice at 1-800-962-6215.
In a world where carcinogens are floating in the air causing tragic but preventable fatalities, it is wise to keep in mind the question raised at Ecclesiastes 7:17: “Why should you die before your time?” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
To learn more about radon gas and National Radon Action Month, visit www.radonmonth.wordpress.com.
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