The Importance of Testing Your Home for Radon
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. Radon doesn’t have a smell and you can’t see or taste it. However, it could be present at dangerous levels in your home.
What is Radon
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs when the element uranium breaks down in dirt and rock. Radon can then move from underground, where it is formed, up into the air or water. Radon can be found all over the U.S., and it can get into any type of building—homes, offices, and schools.
Dangers of Radon
Although radon is formed in nature, you are most at risk of being exposed to dangerous levels of it when you are indoors and the gas has a chance to build. You and your family are most likely to get your greatest exposure to it in your home, since that is where you spend the most time. The EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the United States has elevated radon levels.
Being exposed to radon for a long period of time can lead to lung cancer. Radon gas in the air breaks down into tiny radioactive elements which can lodge in the lining of the lungs. Once there, these particles give off radiation. This radiation can damage lung cells and eventually lead to lung cancer.
What to Do to Protect Against Radon
Radon is in the air we breathe, both indoors and out, so it isn’t possible to avoid it completely. But there may be things you can do to lower your exposure. Since most people experience elevated levels in their home, the first thing to do is test for radon in your home.
Radon test kits are relatively cheap and easy to use yourself. You can order them online or find them in any hardware store. After leaving these short-term kits in your house for several days, you mail them to a lab for analysis. You can also hire a professional to test radon levels in your home. Check the EPA’s website for your state’s radon office where you can find recommendations for qualified contractors.
January is National Radon Action Month. As you begin the new year, considering doing the following to help protect yourself and loved ones from radon:
- Test your home. The EPA recommends testing all homes below the 3rd floor, even new homes that were built “radon-resistant.”
- Spread the word. Tell your family and friends the importance of having their homes tested and the dangerous effects of radon exposure.
- Buy a radon-resistant home. If you are considering buying a new home, look for builders who use radon-resistant new construction.
If the tests reveal that your home has elevated radon, you will need to talk to a qualified contractor about ways to fix your house. They may recommend sealing cracks or increasing ventilation. You should also let your doctor know about any exposure you may have had with elevated radon.
If you do not have a doctor and would like help finding one, UT Medical Center’s Healthcare Coordination can help. They will talk to you about what insurance you have, what type of doctor you need and what days are most convenient for you. Call them today at 865-305-6970 to make an appointment.
For more information about the dangers of radon or any other health topic, contact the Health Information Center. The Health Information Center is a library staffed by medical librarians and certified health information specialists. If you let us know your health information needs, we will do research for you and mail or email the results to you for free. You can call us at 865-305-9525. We also have a large collection of health books covering a variety of topics, including the following:
Becoming a library member is free and only requires a picture ID.
The Health Information Center in located on the first floor the hospital. We have computers, printers, and a quiet place to take a break. We are open the following times:
Mon.-Thurs., 8:30 am-9 pm
Fri., 8:30 am-5 pm
Sat., 9 am-5 pm
Sun., 1 pm-9 pm