Sunday, January 16, 2011

Homeworks: Radon second leading cause of lung cancer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and eight other agencies are working together to strengthen the fight against radon exposure, the leading cause of non-smoking lung cancer.

“Epidemiological studies have provided convincing evidence of an association between indoor radon exposure and lung cancer, even at the relatively low radon levels commonly found in residential buildings,” according to a report by the World Health Organization.

To put that into perspective, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Hoping to create awareness of this silent killer, the EPA has declared January National Radon Awareness Month.

“Radon is a serious public health threat that leads to more than 21,000 deaths each year,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “This new federal partnership will help Americans reduce the risk of radon exposure.”

Many people hear the word radon and assume it has something to do with a faulty furnace or other household appliance as in the case of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a common industrial hazard resulting from the incomplete burning of natural gas and any other material containing carbon such as gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood. It is often produced in domestic or industrial settings by old motor vehicles and other gasoline-powered tools, heaters and cooking equipment. Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible and odorless radioactive gas produced from the uranium in the geological formation under soil. According to the EPA, the amount of radon gas under your home depends on the amount of uranium in the formation. The map of Radon Zones  provided by the EPA, shows areas of the United States where high radon levels have been detected. However, this map is not intended to be used to determine if a home in a given zone should be tested for radon.

Homes with elevated levels of radon have been found in all three zones and the EPA along with the Surgeon General and American Lung Association are recommending that all homes in the United States be tested.

Homes can be tested by a certified professional radon tester or using a do-it-yourself kit available at building supply, hardware and general merchandise stores or online. First Alert’s Radon Gas Test Kit (firstalertstore.com) is approximately $25, but the lab-testing fee is included. A basic test takes 10 minutes to set up and, when complete, is mailed to a lab for analysis. If the results are above the EPA recommended action level, it is necessary to have it reduced by a certified radon mitigator. Reducing radon is not technically difficult and costs approximately $800-$2,500.

For more information about radon gas, to locate a local professional radon tester or certified radon mitigator or where to purchase a radon gas test kit, visit the National Radon Safety Board and the National Environmental Health Association
Send your comments or home and garden tips to Gina Joseph, The Macomb Daily, 100 Macomb Daily Drive, Mount Clemens, MI 48043, or e-mail them to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com.

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