Public health column from the Genesee County Health Department:
Did you know that exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year are related to radon.
Many people are unaware that radon may be a problem in their homes because it is a radioactive gas that you cannot smell, taste or see. The good news is that lung cancer related to radon exposure can be prevented by testing your home.
So where does radon come from? Radon gas forms naturally in the ground from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water that circulates into the air we breathe. When radon is formed under homes and buildings, it can easily enter through cracks in the foundation, walls, joints, dirt floors, opening of sump pump, in well-water supply, and from gaps around suspended floors and pipes.
When radon enters a home, the toxic gas can get trapped inside. Breathing indoor air with high radon levels can be damaging to your health.
Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, explains the dangers relationship betweensmoking, radon, and lung cancer.
“Radon and tobacco smoke from cigarettes (including but not limited to cigars and pipes) can damage your lungs," Pettit said. "When they’re combined, smoking and radon are more dangerous than either one on its own. Smokers who live in a home with high radon levels have a risk of lung cancer that is 10 times higher than nonsmokers who live in homes with high radon levels.”
Testing your home is the only way to know if you and your family are exposed to radon. A short-term test kit is the quickest and easiest way to test your home. The EPA recommends testing the lowest level of your home where people spend time.
If you use part of your basement for living space, like a playroom, office, or den, test there. If you only use your basement for storage, test the first floor. Avoid testing in places that are damp like the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room.
The EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter) or higher.
In Genesee County, the average basement screening level is 7.46 pCi/L, and the average first-floor screening level is 4.32 pCi/L.
Due to the high levels of radon, the Genesee County Health Department offers free short-term radon test kits to residents in Genesee County. The department also provides educational in-services and materials about radon, testing and mitigation at no charge.
If your home has an elevated level of radon, you should contact a certified radon mitigator to install a radon reduction system in your home. It is important to note that these systems should only be installed by a certified radon mitigator.
A radon reduction system can be a low cost and effective way to reduce the level of radon in your home. If you are purchasing a new house, make sure the seller completes a radon test and has the results available. If you are building a new home, make sure to have radon-resistant construction features installed and tested prior to moving in.
For more information on radon, please visit here.
For more details about the program or to receive any of these services call the department at 585-344-2580, ext. 5555, ot visit here.