Symptoms of radon poisoning do not present themselves immediately. It can take years of exposure to this dangerous gas before you experience symptoms, but serious health issues may have already developed. Read on for more information about radon exposure, the associated health risks, and how you can protect your home and health.
How Do People Become Exposed to Radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas. Once emitted from the ground, radon can enter your home through foundation cracks or gaps in your basement walls. It is also possible for radon to enter your water supply if you use groundwater.
Radon can accumulate in your home regardless of its design or age. Three factors that increase the risk of dangerous levels of radon buildup include:
- A poorly ventilated basement or ground floor
- Well-insulated homes
- Uranium-, radium-, or thorium-rich ground
How Common is Radon in Homes?
Radon in homes is very common, especially in the Midwest and areas of the country near mountains and hills. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 1 in 3 homes has elevated radon levels that should be addressed. Homes in areas like Alaska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Ohio and Washington are at an even higher risk of elevated radon levels and should be tested regularly.
What is the Importance of Radon Testing?
Radon testing is important because it is the only way to detect the presence of radon. As we mentioned earlier, radon is colorless, odorless and tasteless, so unless you test for it you have no way of knowing if you are exposed. In areas with high levels of radon, it’s recommended to have testing done every 2-3 years. If a Radon Test detects a high concentration of radon, your inspector will walk you through the next steps and provide suggestions for mitigation.
How Does Radon Affect Your Body?
When you breathe in radon gas, the radioactive particles enter your lungs. Over time, these particles cause damage to the linings of your lungs due to radiation. The American Cancer Society considers radon to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. Almost 20,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths are reported every year.
What are the Symptoms of Radon Exposure?
Radon poisoning occurs when you breathe in excessive quantities of this gas over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, there is no treatment that can remove radon from the human body.
Unlike other harmful gases such as carbon monoxide or ozone, the effects of radon on humans are not immediately apparently. You might be breathing in radon in your own house without realizing until years later.
What makes it even more difficult to deal with is that there are no medical tests that can check for unhealthy radon exposure. People may be asymptomatic for years only to suddenly learn that they are suffering from late-stage lung cancer. This makes it incredibly important to contact your doctor right away if you are experiencing symptoms of radon poisoning.
If you suspect exposure to this harmful gas, you should be on alert for symptoms of radon poisoning, which include:
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
- Recurring pulmonary infections like bronchitis and pneumonia
- Chest pain, especially when coughing or laughing
If you notice any of these radon poisoning symptoms, see your physician immediately.
How Can You Protect Your Home from Radon?
Because the effects of radon are slow and subtle, the best time to act is now. Whether you are a homeowner or homebuyer, safety should be the primary concern in homeownership. Here are ways to reduce the threat of radon to you and your family.
Test, Test, Test
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are looking to purchase a house, make sure to include radon testing in the initial home inspection. If you already own a home, contact a home inspector who offers radon testing. Professional one-stop shop home inspectors can perform your radon testing as a stand-alone service, or as part of a package including full home inspection and other ancillary services.
You should work with a home inspector who follows United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines when testing for radon. Given that 1 in 15 homes in the United States has high levels of radon according to the EPA, and radon has been found all across the US and in all types of homes, testing is your best recourse to this health risk.
Open the windows or use fans and vents to increase the air flow in your basement, crawl space, or ground floor. In addition to expelling radon gases, this can also improve the indoor air quality of your home. However, if the test result shows a high level of radon, this measure alone may not work in reducing radon to an acceptable level.
Seal and Repair
Since radon enters a house through cracks and gaps, sealing and caulking at the first sign of trouble help is an important step for prevention. If the need for stricter measures arises, this basic step helps make any mitigation system more efficient and effective.
Install a Radon Mitigation System
If the inspection shows dangerous levels of radon in your home, your best option is to hire the services of a state-certified contractor who can install a radon mitigation system.
How WIN Home Inspection Can Help
If you have more questions about radon testing, click here to find a WIN Home Inspection expert near you. Alternatively, call (800) 309-6753 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our experts will contact you promptly.