Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Radon gas is inert, colorless and odorless. Most radon exposure occurs inside homes, schools and workplaces. Radon gas becomes trapped indoors after it enters buildings through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Indoor radon can be controlled and managed with proven, cost-effective techniques.
Breathing radon over time increases your risk of lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Nationally, the EPA estimates that about 21,000 people die each year from radon-related lung cancer.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Air pressure inside your home is usually lower than the pressure in the soil around your home’s foundation. Because of this difference in pressure, your house acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings. Because radon is a gas, it can seep from the ground into the air in a house. The primary way that radon enters a house is through the foundation (crawl space, basement) by a variety of paths:
· cracks in basement floors
· sump pumps
· exposed soil
· construction joints (mortar, floor-wall)
· loose fitting pipes
Radon may also enter the air of a house from well water, but this is a minor source compared to that coming in through the foundation.
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer for the general population according to the American Lung Association. The Surgeon General and EPA recommend testing for radon and reducing radon in homes that have high levels. Fix your home if your radon level is confirmed to be 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases may be reduced. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
In El Paso County, over half of all the homes tested between 2011-2015 had high levels of radon. Radon levels vary greatly from home to home. El Paso County and the state of Colorado are in “Zone 1” according to the EPA. This means the state and county have a potential for very high radon levels.
The American Lung Association recommends that all homes in Zone 1 be tested for radon and the U.S. Surgeon General warns that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation. Radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels by up to 99 percent but require special knowledge and skills to design and install.
It’s not enough to go through a private skills training course to become a certified RADON inspector or mitigator! Only that understanding and skill which comes with higher education and experience in a multi-disciplinary approach can effectively mitigate this hazard in your homes. A simple certificate and patch on the shoulder is NOT indicative of such experience. Who will you trust with your life?
RADON Gas is a degradation product of Uranium, a radioactive element that is ubiquitous throughout the granite core of the Rocky Mountains. EPA recommends homes be fixed if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (pico Curies per Liter) or more. Because there is no known safe level of exposure to radon, EPA also recommends that Americans consider fixing their home for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon-induced lung cancer costs the United States over $2 billion dollars per year in both direct and indirect health care costs. (Based on National Cancer Institute statistics of 14,400 annual radon lung cancer deaths – Oster, Colditz & Kelley, 1984).
According to the US EPA, nearly 1 in 3 homes checked in seven states and on three Indian lands had screening levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s recommended action level for radon exposure. The alpha radiation emitted by radon is the same alpha radiation emitted by other alpha generating radiation sources such as plutonium.
A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site (25 mrem limit, 800 mrem exposure).
An elementary school student that spends 8 hours per day and 180 days per year in a classroom with 4 pCi/L of radon will receive nearly 10 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant (25 mrem limit, 200 mrem exposure).
Most U.S. EPA lifetime safety standards for carcinogens are established based on a 1 in 100,000 risk of death. Most scientists agree that the risk of death for radon at 4 pCi/L is approximately 1 in 100. At the 4 pCi/L EPA action guideline level, radon carries approximately 1000 times the risk of death as any other EPA carcinogen. It is important to note that the action level is not a safe level, as there are no “safe” levels of radon gas.