There could be an unwanted visitor creeping into your home right now and you don’t even know it. In fact, it could be there all the time, letting itself in, contaminating your living space and potentially leading to a long, painful battle with cancer.
Nearly every house, condominium, and apartment in the United States and Canada is equipped with two essential security features: smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. These products alert you when oxygen gets too low and there are higher levels of dangerous gas in the air that could lead to immediate asphyxiation.
There should be, however, a third detector added to that list. One in 15 homes in North America—and as many as one in five in certain areas—have unsafe levels of radon in the air. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in North America.
This invisible killer is a radioactive gas that forms underground. Created by uranium breakdown in soil, rock, and groundwater, radon is odorless and seeps into homes and buildings through cracks in the foundation. It’s undetectable without testing for it.
At least one in 20 people can expect to develop lung cancer if they live in a home with high levels of radon. And if they smoke, that number jumps to one in three.
The only way to check for radon contamination is through testing, which can be done independently or by hiring a specialist. You can purchase a do-it-yourself kit at most hardware stores or by visiting the American Lung Association website for a list of retailers and state agencies. Tests should be done every three months, and levels higher than 200-300 Bq/m3 (Becquerel’s per cubic meter) are considered high.
Don’t ignore this sneaky, unseen killer. Check your home for radon levels and make sure you’re not increasing your risk for lung cancer.
“Radon,” American Lung Association web site, 2014; http://www.lung.org/healthy-air/home/resources/radon.html, last accessed February 18, 2014.
“Radon Testing,” Take Action on Radon web site, 2014; http://www.takeactiononradon.ca/radon-testing, last accessed February 18, 2014.
“Indoor Exposure to Radon Gas May Cause Lung Cancer,” News Medical web site, February 14, 2014; http://www.news-medical.net/news/20140214/Indoor-exposure-to-radon-gas-may-cause-of-lung-cancer.aspx, last accessed February 18, 2014.