You might want to get your homes checked to see if you’re harboring an invisible killer in the air. According to Dr. Aaron Goodarzi of the University of Calgary, houses may have well over the safe exposure limit of radon gas.
In an article in the Daily Mail, Dr. Goodarzi writes that at least one in 15 homes in the U.S. contain the invisible gas.
Radon, a radioactive, invisible, and colorless gas, is a major cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoke. In Canada, at least 4,000 new cases of lung cancer are attributed to radon exposure, while experts estimate 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. are linked to the gas.
He and his research team have been testing well over 2,300 homes in Canada for radon for years. According to the results of the testing, at least one in eight homes that were tested contained radon levels that are higher than acceptable levels. Interestingly enough, newer houses have the largest problem with radon levels.
However, the problem lies, according to Dr. Goodarzi, with people’s lack of awareness on the effects of radon gas.
Radon is a radioactive gas that’s invisible and contains no odor. While it naturally occurs from the breakdown of radium in the soil, the gas can seep into a building through cracks in the foundation as well as other openings.
It can be mostly found in the basement or cellars of homes, schools, and offices. There is no distinction with radon exposure: It can seep in any building, both old and new, in about all places where there is housing structure.
The correlation between radon gas and lung cancer was made in the 1970s after abnormally high cancer rates were detected in uranium miners in Elliot Lake in Ontario, Canada.
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Currently, studies have already established that long-term exposure to radon gas can cause irreparable harm to the DNA and lead to gene mutations that ultimately will lead to cancer. Next to smoking, radon exposure is the leading cause of cancer in non-smokers. (Related: Radon in Homes is the Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer.)
Dr. Goodarzi writes that radon exposure is now a major public health concern in Canada. In his location in Alberta alone, he estimates that many patients in Alberta who have never smoked a day in their life, are faced with a high risk for lung cancer.
Still, radon-induced lung cancer can be avoided completely with testing and proper management. Health care costs will be saved by avoiding radon cancer, not to mention a decrease in human suffering.
However, a person who smokes and also lives in a home with radon gas puts him at a much greater hazard, with a one in four chance of developing lung cancer later on. Meanwhile, the percentage of smokers who may have avoided cancer if they were not also exposed to radon gas remains uncertain.
With the advancement of scientific studies regarding the dangers of radon gas, Dr. Goodarzi opines that this will translate to additional legislation to regulate the gas, especially since children have the greatest risk of radon exposure throughout their lives.
As the harmful effects of radon are now gaining ground, the team hopes that this will make radon testing for homes a normal requirement, especially in cases wherein the home was just purchased after a major home repair.