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Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer. And the amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be many years.
Like other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty
about the magnitude of radon health risks. However, we know more about radon
risks than risks from most other cancer-causing substances. This is because
estimates of radon risks are based on studies of cancer in humans (underground
Smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk. Stop smoking and lower your radon level to reduce your lung cancer risk.
Children have been reported to have greater risk than adults of certain types of cancer from radiation, but there are currently no conclusive data on whether children are at greater
risk than adults from radon.
Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:
- How much radon is in your home
- The amount of time you spend in your home
- Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked
It's never too late to reduce your risk of lung cancer. Don't wait to test and fix a radon problem.
If you are a smoker, stop smoking.
MYTH: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.
FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.
MYTH: Radon testing is difficult,
time-consuming and expensive.
FACT: Radon testing is
easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon test
company. Either approach takes only a small amount of time and effort.
MYTH: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.
Reliable testing devices are available from qualified radon testers and
companies. Reliable testing devices are also available by phone or
mail-order, and can be purchased in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Call your
state radon office for
help in identifying radon testing companies.
MYTH: Homes with radon problems
can't be fixed.
FACT: There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes.
Hundreds of thousands
of homeowners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for $800 to
$2,500 (with an average cost of $1,200).. Call your
state radon office for
help in identifying qualified mitigation contractors.
MYTH: Radon affects only certain
kinds of homes.
construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in
homes of all types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, and homes without basements.
Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the
factors that can affect radon levels in homes.
MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.
FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon
problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know your radon level is
MYTH: A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a
FACT: It's not. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home. The only
way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.
MYTH: Everyone should test their water for radon.
FACT: Although radon gets into some homes
through water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If your
water comes from a public water supply that uses ground water, call your water
supplier. If high radon levels are found and the home has a private well, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1 800-426-4791
for information on testing your water.
MYTH: It's difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.
FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not
been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is some times a good selling point.
MYTH: I've lived in my home for so long, it doesn't make sense to take action now.
FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce
radon levels, even if you've lived with a radon problem for a long time.
MYTH: Short-term tests can't be used for making a decision about whether to
fix your home.
FACT: A short-term test,
followed by a second short-term test* can be used to decide whether to fix your
home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term tests is to 4 pCi/L, the less
certain you can be about whether your year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk.
Radon levels can be reduced in most homes to 2 pCi/L or below.
* If the radon test is part of a real estate transaction, the result
of two short-term tests can be used in deciding whether to mitigate. For
more information, see EPA's "Home Buyer's and Seller's
Guide to Radon".
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