From a young age we are all taught general safety tips for our homes. Make sure your fire alarms are up to date, make sure your family has a plan in case of a fire, tornado, etc., make sure that all electronics are up to date, and make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector. The list is continuous but there seems to be one thing that is always neglected or forgotten.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that can be found in most homes. It is generated by the decay of an isotope called uranium-238 a naturally occurring radioactive element that is present in all rocks and soils to some degree. Although it is much more abundant and much more of a threat in areas that are heavy in granite, radon can be a problem anywhere.
Radon is a known carcinogen and has recently been determined by many studies as the second leading cause of lung cancer globally behind smoking. It seeps from the subsoil into homes and accumulates on the ground floor. It is a big problem for families with basements. We are all exposed to small amounts of radon each day but constantly living in an area with a high concentration of radon will eventually lead to cancer.
The most recent study was conducted in Transylvania by researchers from the University of Cantabria and the Babes-Bolyai University in Romania. Their study showed what multiple other studies have – that too much Radon will most likely lead to lung cancer and that smokers who are exposed to radon have a more than one hundred percent chance of having lung cancer. They isolated a group of homes in an area near an old uranium mine and studied the behavior of these individuals. In this area an individual had a 116% chance of getting lung cancer.
Obviously radon is more dangerous than scientist had though. Recently the World Health Organization lowered the safe radon levels from 1000 becquerels to 100 becquerels. This in its self raises more issues. Current building regulations for homes in areas with high concentrations of radon need to be changed to accommodate for these risks. Researchers from the study urge people to build with more radon impermeable materials and for everyone, including people who live in areas where there are only trace amounts of radon, to get a detector for their homes.
Awareness is the most important thing. It is not that people are not willing to buy a detector or keep batteries in it; they just don’t know that it is necessary to keep their families healthy. Local governments need to get involved like they do with smoke detectors and educate the public.