January is National Radon Month, a great time to better understand this highly radioactive, odorless, colorless & tasteless gas that, given prolonged exposure, is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
The United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) states radon is a worldwide health risk in homes. Dr. Maria Neira of WHO said that "Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people's homes. " Click here for the World Health Organization's Handbook On Indoor Radon
Here's a January Vermont Department of Health (802-863-7281) Press Release on Radon:
BURLINGTON - The winter heating season is the best time to test homes for radon, a colorless, odorless gas present at elevated levels in about one out of every seven homes in Vermont. Prolonged exposure to radon is the second leading cause (after smoking) of lung cancer in the United States, and is responsible for more than 20,000 deaths annually.
The Health Department is encouraging Vermonters to test their homes for radon in January as part of National Radon Action Month.
"Exposure to radon is preventable and fixable through proper venting techniques," said Austin Sumner, MD, State Epidemiologist for Environmental Health.
The cost of having a certified professional properly ventilate a home can range from $800 to $2,500, depending on the home's characteristics.
Radon gas can get into your home from the soil and the water supply. A house can act like a large chimney, with warm air rising and escaping out upper floor windows and through cracks in the attic. This creates a vacuum at the lowest level of the house, which can pull the radon from the soil into the house. Because radon levels can change daily, weekly and seasonally, a test of three to 12 months (ideally including a heating season) gives the most accurate measurement of exposure. Radon testing should be done in the lowest level of living space in the house.
For a free long term test kit, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put the words "radon test kit" in the subject line of your email and be sure to include your name, phone number, and both your mailing and physical address, or call 1-800-439-8550.
To obtain a short-term test kit for $25, contact the Vermont Health Department Laboratory at 863-7335 or 800-660-9997, or visit www.healthvermont.gov.
From the Wikipedia article on Radon: "Although radon exposure has only been conclusively linked to lung cancer, further studies may be needed to assess the relationship between radon and leukemia. The effects of radon if ingested are similarly unknown, although studies have found that its biological half-life ranges from 30-70 minutes, with 90 percent removal at 100 minutes. It has also been shown that radon progeny can attach itself to the smoke of cigarettes, which then become lodged within the lungs. It is considered likely that the combination of smoking and radon exposure increase risk synergistically."
The Environmental Protection Agency is a great source of information on Radon including their publication, A Citizen's Guide to Radon in which radon test levels are addressed. "The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L, and about 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable in all cases, most homes today can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below."