U.S. Surgeon General, Richard H. Carmona, has issued a national health advisory to the American public about the risks of breathing indoor radon. The advisory is meant to urge Americans to prevent this silent radioactive gas from seeping into their homes and building up to dangerous levels.
Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country. The good news is that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test.
Radon is an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas, with no immediate health symptoms. It comes from the breakdown of uranium inside the earth. Simple test kits, which are available through the Extension Service, can reveal the amount of radon in any building. Those with high levels can be fixed with simple and affordable venting techniques.
Indoor environments are structures including workplaces, schools, offices, houses and apartment buildings. It is estimated that Americans spend between 85 and 95 percent of their time indoors. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, one in every 15 homes nationwide has a high radon level at or above the recommended radon action level of 4 picoCuries (pCi/L) per liter of air.
Radon gas in the indoor air of America's homes poses a serious health risk. More than 20,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer every year. Millions of homes have an elevated radon level. If you also smoke, your risk of lung cancer is much higher. Test your home for radon every two years, and retest any time you move, make structural changes to your home, or occupy a previously unused level of a house. If you have a radon level of 4 pCi/L or more, take steps to remedy the problem as soon as possible.
Americans need to know about the risks of indoor radon and have the information and tools they need to take action. That's why EPA is actively promoting the Surgeon General's advice urging all Americans to get their homes tested for radon. If families do find elevated levels in their homes, they can take inexpensive steps that will reduce exposure to this risk.
To get your free radon testing kit, come to the Extension Service at 116 Main Street, Thomson. For more information call 595-1815.