National Radon Action Month: What you need to know
The Environmental Protection Agency has proclaimed January to be National Radon Action Month. What do you and your readers need to know about this preventable health hazard?
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of uranium, something that is found in nearly all soil. When it seeps into a house or other building through cracks, it can become trapped and build up to unhealthy levels.
What are the health risks associated with radon?
According to the EPA, "exposure to radon in the home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year."
Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that are trapped in the lungs. As those particles break down, they release small bursts of energy, damaging lung tissue and potentially leading to lung cancer.
Where is radon found?
Radon can be found in soil anywhere, however the EPA offers a map of radon zones that identifies areas of the United States with the potential for elevated indoor radon levels. There are also state and regional resources available.
How can readers find out about the radon levels in their homes?
They can hire a professional or get a test kit from a state agency or home improvement store to test for radon in the home. When hiring a professional, consumers should be aware that companies should not represent themselves or their services as "EPA Listed" or "EPA Approved" or "Meets EPA Requirements" or otherwise imply an EPA sanction. The EPA had operated the National Radon Proficiency Program which issued photo-identification cards but that program closed in October 1998.
If high levels of radon are found, what can be done?
EPA's frequently asked questions about radon
A full list of EPA publications about radon
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' radon resources
The International Radon Project, a World Health Organization initiative
WHO handbook on indoor radon - a public health perspective
Research Ties Radon to as Many as 21,800 Deaths Each Year (Feb. 20, 1998)
Related Congressional briefing and the full report.
Radon in Drinking Water Constitutes Small Health Risk, release from the National Academies in September 1998 [complete report]