Many homeowners underestimate the consequences radon could have on the long-term health of themselves and their families.
Published: September 8, 2023
By: Insoo Park, Founder & CEO — Ecosense
Author Website: Click to Visit
For most homeowners, their first concern is creating a safe home for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, there is one hazard that may persist right under their noses: radon. This gas may not seem like something to be too worried about, but its potential to cause cancer to those exposed to elevated levels means it should be one of homeowners’ top or primary concerns.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from the radioactive decay of uranium in the soil. Although radon occurs in the atmosphere in trace amounts, it becomes a concern for homeowners when it unnaturally accumulates in homes at levels much greater than what occurs in the atmosphere. Exposure to radon can cause serious long-term health consequences, such as lung cancer — even if the exposure to elevated levels of the gas is brief.
According to the CCD’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, around 14 percent of all lung cancer cases may be due to radon, making it the largest cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the second largest cause overall behind only smoking. Radon exposure causes lung cancer because radioactive particles from the gas’s decay become lodged in the lungs, where they can cause mutations in the cells — eventually causing cancer.
Studies show that the risk of exposure to only 4.0 pCi/L of radon gas is equivalent to having 400 chest X-rays a year or smoking 8 cigarettes a day. This means many homeowners underestimate the consequences radon could have on the long-term health of themselves and their families.
Risk factors for exposure to elevated levels of radon
Inadequate ventilation in areas of buildings that are in close proximity to the soil can contribute to the accumulation of radon at these higher-than-average levels. However, any home, school, or building can have high levels of radon, including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.
Part of what makes radon such a threat to homeowners is that, unlike many other hazards, radon is not detectable by the human senses. These characteristics have earned radon the not-too-endearing nickname “the silent killer,” especially since many individuals who develop lung cancer due to radon exposure do not recognize the signs until it is too late. As an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas, the only way to detect the presence of radon in one’s home is through radon testing.
Homeowners can conduct radon testing through one of two means: hiring a radon professional or using one of the many consumer radon testing devices on the market. Thankfully, the market now offers a variety of radon monitors. Over the past several years, the radon space has seen incredible innovation. Proper and reliable radon monitors enable consumers to get reliable readings similar to those delivered by professionals, offering a much more convenient and affordable alternative. Moreover, certain devices offer the added convenience of directly displaying results on the homeowner’s mobile app.
Still, homeowners must recognize that a single radon test is not enough to determine their risk from exposure to radon, as radon levels inside a home or building can fluctuate significantly based on factors such as seasonal weather or changes in pressure. These factors can greatly affect the rates at which radon gas is drawn into the home through openings and cracks in the foundation.
How homeowners can protect themselves from the threat of radon
To accurately assess a home’s radon levels, there must be a series of tests done over a period of weeks or even months, so it is vital that homeowners invest in continuous radon monitoring. Experts recommend an initial period of six weeks as a first step to determine whether a home is at risk. Even if a home tests outside actionable levels in the winter, summer is a great time to re-test, as the different conditions could affect your home’s radon levels.
If a home’s radon levels test above 4.0 pCi/L — the EPA’s “action level” for radon — mitigation measures must be immediately taken. The EPA also suggests that homeowners whose homes test between 2.0 and 4.0 pCi/L consider mitigation. After testing reveals they need to take action, homeowners should contact a radon professional who will implement a system to help vent the radon to outside the home, where it can dissipate.
Due to the long-term health risks that radon exposure poses for homeowners and their families, it is crucial for them to take action now before it is too late. With the quality of the devices on the market for consumers right now, there is no excuse not to protect your home, yourself, and your family from this leading cause of cancer.
— Insoo Park’s goal is to empower consumers to lead a safe and healthy lifestyle free from the life-threatening dangers posed by Radon gas by delivering detection results accurately and quickly. He has authored articles for Lake Oconee Health and Facilities Management Advisor. Ecosense, his company, has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, Benzinga, The Digital Journal, TechBullion, NYWeekly, and San Francisco Post, among others, and appeared on KVNF Radio in Colorado.