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Are Radon Concerns Exaggerated?


Radon Concerns Are Exaggerated

For years we have heard about the risks of radon inhalation impacting health and potentially causing lung cancer. According to the EPA, radon has caused thousands of deaths annually and along with cigarette smoking is a major cause for lung cancer. While it is true that inhaling high levels of radon is dangerous, such levels are typically present in underground areas such as mine shafts, not residential homes.

Certainly, large amounts of radon, can damage to the lungs because radon gases can cause cellular breakdown, altering the DNA which results in cell mutations and lead to cancer.

What Prompted the Radon Scare?

Several years ago, the threat of radon gained recognition when statistics indicated that miners working in radon filled areas were contracting lung cancer more frequently than average. The EPA took action and set the radon safety limit at 4 picocuries and began advising radon testing in homes. And while this LNT, “linear no-threshold” model, was not scientifically backed, it worked out well for the EPA financially.

It was this recommended testing along with a specific occurrence in the mid 1980s when Stanley Watras, an employee of the Limerick Nuclear Plant, began triggering alarms as he entered the building. Authorities tested him as well as his home for radiation and radon levels, only to discover they exceeded the “safety levels” set by the EPA levels. The interesting part is that his situation was unique because his home was built on a geological formation that had higher than normal radon levels, yet this information was not so quickly shared with the public.

What is Radon?

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is naturally occurring. It exists outside as well as in our homes and the very air we breathe has some level of radon. The gas is released from decaying uranium, an element found in rocks and soils everywhere on the planet. Since radon is produced naturally and dispersed into the air, levels are typically minimal. However, if they do become trapped inside of a building or home, its presence can exceed safety levels.