10 facts about this cancer-causing, natural gas you likely haven’t heard of

1. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that decays from uranium, and we inhale it everyday

Whether or not you’re aware, radon is something you inhale on a daily basis, along with oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, argon, carbon dioxide, and pollutants (VOCs, carbon monoxide, lead and nitrogen dioxide). What’s different about radon from other pollutants is that it’s naturally occurring and the second leading cause of lung cancer (just behind smoking).

2. Some areas in the U.S. are worse than others

The map below displays the varying levels of radon, yellow areas have the lowest levels of radon where red has the most. This is a measure of the level of uranium in the ground.

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3. The first time radon comes up is usually during the buying and selling of a home as an 11th hour btw-you-still-need-to-do-this impasse

As a result, awareness of radon is staggeringly low when considering the relevance and impact it has on our daily lives. Radon levels in a home can delay the home sale and is often something that the home seller or buyer might not anticipate.

4. Inhaling 4 pCi/L is equivalent to smoking 8 cigarettes a day

The EPA states that 4 pCi/L of radon in a home is hazardous, though every level of radon can have an impact. The only way to find out if it is a problem is if you test the level of pCi/L of radon in the air- that can be done through a home test kit or a professional test.

5. There are more radon-caused lung cancer deaths per year than drunk driving accidents, drownings, and gun-related homicides

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 22,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon.

6. Studies suggest children are at higher risk of radon exposure than adults due to more rapid cell division

Risk of lung cancer in children resulting from exposure to radon may be almost twice as high as the risk to adults exposed to the same amount of radon. If children are also exposed to tobacco smoke, the risk of getting lung cancer increases at least 20 times. The EPA estimates that more than 70,000 schoolrooms across the U.S. are at risk for elevated levels of radon.

7. Radon can also be in water

Water can also contain radon which is either ingested or inhaled (i.e. showers).

8. Around one in 15 homes in the U.S. has elevated radon levels

Radon levels can vary vastly from one location to another. For context, one home in a neighborhood could have highly dangerous levels (~20 pCi/L) where another could meet EPA compliance at 2 pCi/L.

9. There are chemical pollutants in groundwater and soil that impact air quality similarly to radon

With the discovery of radon came a subsequent discovery of vapor-forming chemicals (e.g., petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents) also yielding a similar carcinogenic risk. These vapor-forming chemicals are a result of irresponsible disposal of cleaning solvents (read more here).

10. Vacuums piped into the ground suck vapors out of the soil and exhaust into the air, to keep air clean and safe

These vacuums, or also known as radon mitigation systems, remove gases from the ground before they enter a home. If professionally installed, these vacuums sustain for the entire lifespan of the home. With a vacuum installed, all gases are removed (including radon, TCE, PCE, and other volatile chemicals).

Have you heard of radon? *

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