January is National Radon Action Month, an annual observance that focuses on increasing the public’s awareness of the health risk from radon, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer. During January and throughout the year, the American Lung Association is encouraging radon testing for everyone, including homeowners, renters, real estate agents, building managers and school administrators.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas emitted from the ground that is odorless, tasteless and colorless. It can enter a home through cracks in walls, basement floors, foundations and other openings. Radon can be present at high levels inside homes, schools and other buildings. Radon gas is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. The EPA recommends taking action to reduce radon if the result is 4.0 pCi/L or greater aiming to get your radon level to the lowest level possible.
According to the Lung Association’s State of Lung Cancer Report, an estimated 39.1 % of Pennsylvania radon test results equal or exceed the EPA Action level of 4 pCi/L. Nationally, only 21.8% of homes are at or above the action level, making Pennsylvania residents at greater risk than those of most other states.
“Radon in homes is more common than you think. In fact, at least 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. have elevated levels of radon and this is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States,” said Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health, the American Lung Association. “The good news is that it is easy to test for radon. Do-it-yourself test kits are simple to use and inexpensive.”
Here are 5 important things to know about radon:
- Radon-related lung cancers are responsible for an estimated 21,000 deaths annually in the United States.
- Smoking and radon exposure can separately increase the risk of lung cancer. If you smoke, exposure to both tobacco and radon enhances the risk of lung cancer even further
- The only way to detect radon in your home is to test the air. EPA urges anyone with radon levels above 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) take action to fix their homes. Both the EPA and the American Lung Association recommend that mitigation be considered if levels are greater than 2 pCi/L. After high levels are detected, a radon mitigation system should be installed by a radon professional.
- Radon testing should always be done when you buy a home and after building a new home. Many states now require radon results (if known) to be disclosed during a real estate transaction. Some states require testing in priority buildings like schools and daycares.
- When high levels of radon are detected, professional radon mitigation should be a priority. Do-it-yourself radon mitigation is typically not an effective long-term solution. Some state health departments offer financial assistance or low interest loans for radon mitigation.
Learn more about radon testing and mitigation at www.Lung.org/Radon.