Protect your family from a silent killer: Radon gas

brick-wallMost of us have heard that smoking kills thousands of Americans every year and is the leading cause of lung cancer. But do you know the second leading cause?

Surprisingly, it is the prolonged exposure to radon gas. According to the National Institutes of Health, 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year can be attributed to this toxic gas.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas originating from the breakdown of uranium in the earth. The natural breakdown of rock and soil releases radon gas, which can invade homes through cracks and sump pump openings in basement foundations. From there, the gas can be inhaled.

Both existing and newly constructed homes have the potential to harbor high radon levels. There are ways to protect your family or tenants and restore peace of mind. Radon test kits are available at home improvement stores at a reasonable price. If radon levels test high — four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or more — then you should take steps to reduce radon levels.

The most common method is to install a radon remediation system, which acts as a vacuum, sucking out the hazardous gases and releasing the vapors outside and away from living quarters. Most systems can be installed by homeowners or professionals certified in radon remediation for around $500-$1,000.

Even with a radon system, homeowners will still want to conduct a radon test every few years to verify the device is working properly.

Find tips on choosing a radon remediation system or contractor in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.”

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4 Responses to “Protect your family from a silent killer: Radon gas”

  1. sean mooney

    We should all be concerned about radon but don’t forget about carbon monoxide as well. It’s very common in older homes and if a home is hooked up to natural gas they should most definitely have a carbon monoxide detector.

  2. Michael Mason, PG

    I defy anyone to show medical evidence of a single residential radon death in the United States! This is right in there with anthropogenic global warming… it is a hoax (with the EPA being the chief abettor).

    a) If you have a basement or crawl space with absolutely no ventilation, you could place one of those $25 detectors in the deepest corner and may get some sort of elevated level. If you have a door to your basement or crawl space… if your crawl space has vents… if your heater or any component of HVAC are located in your basement… if you have a washer/dryer in your basement… you won’t have any significant concentration of radon.
    b) AND if you spend a significant portion of your time in the back corner of your air tight crawl space or basement… you MIGHT get exposed. Do you sleep down there… watch TV… dine down there?
    c) Radon is in the chain of decay products from fissionable uranium) But, fissioning radon is an alpha emitter. Alpha particles are HUGE and have a very low energy level! They cannot penetrate onion skin.
    d) Radon is an inert gas (Rn is located on the far right column of your periodic table). The inert elements DO NOT enter into any bonding relationship with any other elements. So, if you inhale a radon particle… you lose it when you exhale.
    e) All radon is not fissionable (unstable isotope: Rn-220 or Rn-222). You would have to inhale a fissionable isotope of radon… hold your breath… have it get trapped in a fold of lung tissue… have it burp that alpha particle at that precise moment (Rn-220 has a half-life of 55.3 seconds and Rn-222 has a half-life of 3.83 days). The alpha particle would have to strike the nucleus of the RNA of soft tissue, genetic material and not destroy it… but cause it to mutate. The mutation would have to survive. The mutation would have to be able to generate copies of itself. Do I need to continue this chain… have you got it yet?
    f) The Alamos Handbook of Radiation Monitoring lists NO critical organs for radon). EPA’s own list of screening levels DOES NOT list radon.
    g) The Standard handbook of Environmental Engineering suggests you might want to take some mitigating measures at 200 pCi/L. PLEASE! If any of you can get that kind of concentration in your basement or crawl space… I will buy you a case of whiskey.

    You have to work in an unventilated mine to get any significant exposure to radon.

    • Bea Black

      Your comment made me so much happier for my grandkids as they live in a basement tested low in radon. I was freaking out but do feel better now. I’m glad I found and read your comment!

  3. R Colucci

    Mr Mason,
    Well said. It would have been smart to have included a sentence or two concerning your PG status (Professional Geologist I’m assuming) so folks reading your comment hopefully understand your level of training in this area. Having said that, I think you may agree that if someone cares to monitor their radon levels in their basements, that is up to them. The relationship of carcinogenesis to chronic radon exposure is an extremely complicated one with many data gaps and, from that perspective, it may or may not be easy to justify expenditures that could conceivably can be considered a waste, especially if in terms of cause and effect. On the other hand, since the risk assessment process at this point of radon causing lung cancer, is replete w data gaps, I suppose it would be best to err on the side of caution and use that money to monitor one’s basement to make sure that higher levels are not found in ones to dwelling particular in the Rocky Mountain States where radon exposure is considered to be much higher. Of course, as a PG, you already know that. It’s a simple, yet complex problem.

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