Radon is a naturally occurring element with the chemical symbol “Rn”. Exposure to radon is a health risk as the colorless, odorless gas cannot be detected but has been classified as a carcinogen.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Radon poisoning may be the second leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking.
What is Radon?
According to the National Academies Press:
“Radon is a naturally occurring gas that seeps out of rocks and soil. Radon comes from uranium that has been in the ground since the time the earth was formed, and the rate of radon seepage is variable, partly because the amounts of uranium in the soil vary considerably.”
Radon is a chemical element on the periodic table and is listed as “Rn”. It is formed naturally when radioactive elements such as uranium, decay or break down in the natural environment. Radon gas in soil and rock can easily move into the air and into both underground and surface water. It is naturally found in the outdoors in small amounts but can collect in low-lying areas, particularly those that are wet or damp.
Symptoms of radon exposure are the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon symptoms are the second leading cause of lung cancer responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked, which moved Dr. Richard H. Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General, to issue a national health advisory on radon in 2005.
How Does Radon Exposure Occur?
Though Radon is formed and present in many places out of doors, most Radon exposure occurs due to indoor air quality in homes, offices, schools and other types of buildings. In fact, Radon gas exposure is a significant contributor to poor indoor air quality. It is a colorless and odorless gas that isn’t readily detectable by a human. Radon flows from the soil into outdoor air. Outside air typically contains very low levels of radon, but it can build up to higher concentrations indoors.
Radon gas emitted from soil or rocks can also enter buildings through floor gaps or areas around wires, pumps or pipes. It most commonly collects in the low-lying areas of a home, particularly in basements or under pier and beam houses. People who spend a great deal of time in basements or under houses are at increased risk for radon poisoning.
People whose water supply comes from deep, underground wells may also have higher exposure than those whose water comes from surface collection. Building materials can be a significant source of radon exposure, but very little testing is done for stone, rock, or tile products brought into building sites.
Avoiding Radon Exposure
Since Radon is present in the air both indoors and outside, it isn’t possible to completely avoid exposure but there are some things that can minimize the risk of Radon poisoning.
Check radon levels using detection units, similar to smoke detectors which can be purchased from hardware or home supply stores. Radon exposure can also be performed using test kits which are mailed in after a period of time to be tested in a laboratory.
The EPA recommends that all homes be tested below the 3rd floor, even when a home has been built as “radon-resistant”. If testing indicates that radon levels are 4.0pCi/L or higher, steps should be taken to reduce radon levels.
In the workplace, Radon exposure is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which set limits on radon levels and levels of radon progeny that develop when radon breaks down. In areas prone to radon collection, steps and processes must be in place to lower radon levels to acceptable levels.
Each workplace which may expose workers to radon should have a workplace safety officer in charge of policies and procedures surrounding radon and other safety issues.
Compensation for Radon Exposure
People who have been exposed to radon have a higher risk of lung cancer, smoking can increase this risk. If you are non-smoker who has been diagnosed with lung cancer and suspect radon exposure from your workplace is the cause, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact us, for more information or further discussion.