Radon is the single largest source of radiation for almost everyone in Washington. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the second leading cause behind smoking. It is easy to decrease your risk from radon by testing for it and, if necessary, fixing your home.
What is radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. It comes from the radioactive decay of radium, an element found in most rocks and soils. Radon can enter a building from the ground underneath it, and concentrate to tens or even hundreds of times the level in outdoor air.
How can radon affect me?
Radon can cause lung cancer. As radon radioactively decays, energy is released in the form of particles and photons. These can hit cells and damage or destroy them. Lung cancer can form when a cell is damaged and the cell does not repair itself correctly. The more radon you are exposed to, the greater the opportunity for cell damage. Although smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, the risk is highest when an individual smokes and is exposed to radon. Learn about tobacco-related disease.
Radon levels vary across the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that all homes be tested for radon regardless of geographic location because of the link between radon and lung cancer. The EPA also recommends the following:
- If you are buying a home or selling your home, have it tested for radon.
- For a new home, ask if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested.
- Fix the home if the radon level is 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. Consider having the home fixed if levels are 2.5 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher as Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases, may be reduced.
Take steps to prevent device interference when conducting a radon test. For more information about radon testing and buying or selling your home, visit the EPA’s Radon and Real Estate
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