By Lynne Eldridge MD
A few years back I came up with some “novel” reasons why everyone should check their home for radon. Hopefully these “10 new reasons” prompted at least a few people to pick up a radon test kit. Remember, it doesn’t take any willpower, you can do it in your PJ’s, and it’s cheaper than therapy. Yet even though testing is easy, and knowing that radon-induced lung cancer is a largely preventable disease, too few families have checked their homes. Radon…
Statistics tell us it’s important. It’s estimated that roughly 21,000 people die in the U.S. each year secondary to radon-induced lung cancer. Around 39,000 people are expected to die from breast cancer. But has anyone heard of radon induced cancer receiving half of the attention that breast cancer does? (And since it is caused by high levels of radon in the home, women (and children) may be at the greatest risk)
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers, and the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
Emotions may encourage us to do the test. Many of us heard about Dana Reeves, the wife of “superman” and a non-smoker who died from lung cancer leaving her son an orphan. There are many famous people who have died from lung cancer in which radon may have played a role. The combination of smoking and radon isn’t good.
But, if you still haven’t found yourself motivated enough to go to your local hardware store and pick up a radon test kit for less than a Jackson, check out these additional reasons.
10 More New Reasons to Check for Radon
- It’s an opportunity to meet new people. When you go to the hardware store you can share some radon statistics with the employees and other patrons as a way to start up a conversation. Hopefully your level will be normal, but if not, you may also have the opportunity to meet another person: the person who does radon mitigation for your home.
- It could lower your stress level. It’s stressful selling your home. Some states require a radon test before sale, yet in states where a level is not required, buyers are increasingly asking for a level during the inspection process. Isn’t there enough to do getting ready to move without having to have an inspector do a check, and find a radon mitigation specialist to remedy the problem before closing if the result is high? (I know. We are one of those families that requested a test in the purchase agreement, and unfortunately for the buyers the level was elevated, meaning that they had to add the time and expense of radon mitigation on top of everything else they had to do in the process of moving. Fortunately they are very gracious people and were wonderful about hiring a radon mitigation professional to assess and then solve the problem.)
- It could ease guilt in the future. Lung cancer is common. What if someone in your family developed lung cancer? Would you kick yourself for not dropping a 20 dollar bill at the hardware store with intentions of doing it “some day?”
- It could increase your self-confidence. The next time you find yourself in a group of mothers trying to one-up each other – bragging about how they tested their homes for radon to ensure their children’s safety – you don’t have to feel like you are a poor mother. In fact, you can even join in and raise your nose in the air.
- You can solve a mystery. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas released by the normal decay of uranium in the soil. It is okay when outdoors, but can create problems when it is trapped in homes. Since you can’t see it or smell it, and since your level could be high even though your next-door-neighbor’s is normal, the only way you can determine if the level in your home is dangerous or not is via radon testing.
- It could prove you are down to earth. Honestly I’ve heard people say (and one with an arrogant tone,) that testing for radon where they live is unnecessary. The truth is that high radon levels have been found in homes in all 50 states in the U.S. and many areas around the world. Testing for radon, and the potential of finding a high level, doesn’t mean you are a bad housekeeper or that you have failed in any way. It all comes down to how much uranium is present deep below your home.
- It can be a conversation piece. During the holidays (and beyond in many other situations) you may be tossed into a group of people in which you have very little in common. So what can you talk about? Since radon is an equal-opportunity-cancer-causing-agent, almost everyone in the U.S. could be at risk (unless you happen to live on the 55th floor – homes on the 3rd floor or higher are usually okay.) You can start a conversation with a total stranger by asking him or her if they have checked the radon level in their home. (P.S. If you plan to do this, check out the articles below on the facts about radon that everyone should know, how to test for radon, and what radon mitigation is all about.
- It’s dollar wise and penny foolish to test for radon. To put this in perspective, if you don’t check your home for radon, but have smoke detectors, you are being penny wise and dollar foolish. Keep in mind that radon kills over 20,000 people each year (via the lung cancer it causes) while home fires kill fewer than 3,000 people. If you’re heading out to make sure you have enough smoke detectors (or carbon monoxide detectors) in your home, make sure to pick up a radon test kit.
- You can satisfy the “engineer types” in your life. Exposure to radon isn’t a subjective experience. You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. You won’t have any immediate symptoms if you are exposed to high levels. But you can find out if you are at risk with solid numbers delivered via testing. You can even look at the level in your home and compare it to other possible risks in your life. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the relative risk of radon exposure to make this a bit clearer. For example, if you are a non-smoker and the radon level in your home is 10 pCi/L, your risk of dying from lung cancer due to radon exposure is 20 times your risk of dying in a house fire.
- It will probably be your easiest New Year’s resolution to keep. Yet even though radon testing (and mitigation when needed) is easy, it comes with a big bang for the buck. And, unlike exercising or eating healthy, you only need to do it once.
- Radon and Lung Cancer – What Everyone Should Know
- Radon Testing – How Can You Find Out if the Radon Level in Your Home is Too High?
- Radon Mitigation – What Can You Do if You Find out Your Radon Level is Too High?