While many 1-800 numbers seem to be for sales companies trying to get a quick 15 minutes of your time, some are supposed to help, for any number of conditions. This is the case with the addiction recovery hotline, the suicide prevention hotline, and many other hotlines. But the number above my surprise. It’s not for mental health. It’s for the second leading cause of lung cancer and a hidden killer you may not know about: Radon.
Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that causes 21,000 cancer deaths per year. To put it in its most obvious form, secondhand smoke, widely reviled to the point of moving smokers away from the entrances to building, causes just 7,000 cancer deaths per year.
It has claimed celebrities as Dana Reeve, the wife of Christopher Reeve, died from lung cancer at just the age of 44. Likely, it was radon poisoning that caused her lung cancer. It was especially prominent in coal mines and oil wells, where high levels of radon exist and populate in the air for workers to breath. It strikes first at women and children. It even invades your homes.
Radon poisoning is the leading cause of lung cancer for those who have never smoked.
So what is radon? Here is a quick primer.
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs when uranium and thorium break down. Because of the length of the half-lives of uranium and thorium, it is likely radon will be around for billions of years. It is a chemical element with the designation Rn on the periodic table of elements.
Radon itself has a half-life of 3.8 days, meaning that it takes 11.4 days for radon to become 1/8 of its original potency. In spite of this half life, it will continue to be around as long as uranium and thorium are around, as it exists as part of their decaying process.
Radon is easy to inhale and it is the single largest contributor to an individual’s background radiation dose. Radon levels change according to the environment. As of this moment, there are seven states and three Indian lands in which one-third of the homes tested for high levels of radon.
Radon is the single greatest contaminant for indoor air quality around the world.
How does radon affect lung cancer? The question lies in free radicals.
Radon, when inhaled, causes radioactivity to the cells in the lungs. As Radon tries to stabilize, it releases unstable elements into the cells in a person’s lungs, damaging the DNA of those cells, which later transmute and cause cancer.
It is often present in wells and springs, as well as houses that have a low lying pool of water. With all that said, the question becomes–how can you protect yourself against radon? The answer starts with a basic form of treatment: conduct a test.
Radon testing is available, cheap and easy. Testing kits are available at the local hardware store, sometimes for as little as $20. The tests can detect radon in the long term and short term. Short term radon tests detect radon between two and 90 days. Long term tests detect radon for longer than 90 days.
Residential radon testing is simple: place the detector at the lowest level of your living space and wait. If the radon in your home is less than 4 pCi/L, you’re below the actionable level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If you feel like the testing needs to be done by a professional, it’s always possible to search online for a radon testing company. Consider putting in your location to speed up the search, such as ‘Denver radon testing.’ A search such as ‘Denver radon testing’ can get you results from radon testing companies in Denver, Colorado.
A professional radon testing company will have specialized tools to measure radon, which may measure radon in a shorter time span than the tools at the local hardware store. They may also measure more accurately. Lots of times, companies, such as those found by ‘Denver radon testing,’ will come out to the house quickly to measure. This is important, as radon levels may rise.
A search like ‘Denver radon testing’ will yield the best possible results for your professional radon testing needs.