Radon, the Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer, May Be Lurking in Your Home

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer among Americans. Only cigarette smoking causes more cases of this deadly disease. Frighteningly, you can’t touch radon, smell it, or even see it. So, you might not ever know you’ve been exposed to this naturally occurring radioactive gas until it’s too late.

Radon is found in rock and soil. It’s even present in water as the breakdown of uranium. When uranium breaks down, the substance is sent into the air where it can accumulate and lead to lasting health problems.

Radon can sometimes be intense in houses constructed on natural soil that consists of uranium deposits. According to Healthline, the gas is ushered into your home through cracks in the floors, walls, and even through construction joints or gaps around service pipes, electrical wires, and pits. Approximately one out of every 15 houses in the United States is thought to have elevated radon levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

When radon enters your body, it subjects your lungs to small amounts of radiation. In miniscule quantities, professionals claim this exposure won’t harm you. But, continuous exposures to radon or contact with large amounts of the gas can harm the cells of your lungs’ lining. This heightens your risk for getting lung cancer.

Unfortunately, because radon is naturally occurring in the air, it can’t be completely prevented.

Dr. Alan Mensch, senior vice president of medical affairs and pulmonologist at Plainview and Syosset Hospitals, Long Island, NY., said, “It is estimated that radon gas inhalation is responsible for 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths per year.”

Dr. Mensch revealed that other than “possibly leukemia, lung cancer is the only malignancy associated with radon exposure.”

Radon Programs Administrator at Kansas State University’s National Radon Program Service, Bruce Snead, remarked, “The combination of smoking and radon increases the risk [of developing lung cancer] by about a factor of nine times.”

Rachael Malmberg, a U.S. star hockey player, discovered she had stage four lung cancer a little over two years ago. The athlete told Healthline that her symptoms consisted of “pain in my back in the rib area that radiated to the shoulder blade and neck.”

Malmberg said, “It was almost like a bad knot in your shoulder blades but it hurt eventually bad enough to move my head and turn my neck.” Naturally, the hockey player was crushed when she learned of her diagnosis.

Similar to many, she didn’t know radon was causing her symptoms until it was too late. Malmberg stated, “I did not know about radon until I started asking what could cause lung cancer and doing research.”

After testing her house and her childhood home, the athlete found that radon “was the most logical connection that [she] could make to long-term exposure and vulnerability to establish something like lung cancer.”

The signs Malberg experienced were the later ones people suffer from lung cancer. Snead said in the short-term, “there are no human indicators of current radon levels we are exposed to, nor signs or symptoms of that exposure from our perceptual systems.”

Being exposed to both cigarettes and radon poses a greater risk of lung cancer than being exposed to either factor alone. Most of the people who die of radon-related lung cancer are smokers. However, greater than 10 percent of radon-associated deaths are non-smokers.

The only way to find out the amount of radon present in your home, place of work, school, or water supply is to have them tested. According to Healthline, “Short-term tests can measure radon between 2 days and 90 days depending on the device used.”

To determine an accurate read of radon exposure, your windows and doors should be closed as often as possible. Because radon levels change on a daily basis, long-term testing is recommended to provide you with a closer estimation of average radon exposure. Both short-term and long-term tests are available. Affordable, they typically cost between $30 and $100.

But, what happens if your home tests positive for high radon levels? National Radon Program Services reported that the average expense to make your house safer is $1,500. While this might seem like a large sum, it’s a small price to pay for your health.


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