Radon Awareness Month: What it is and why we care?
If you’ve ever seen the table of elements before, for example during science class, you would have come across the element Radon.
But do you know what Radon is?
Radon is a radioactive gas that is naturally found when the uranium in rock and soil break down. This type of gas is dangerous because it is not visible by the naked eye, tasteless, and odourless. When radon is released into an outdoor environment, it is not normally a concern. This is because the gas becomes diluted. However, radon released in an indoor environment (such as inside homes) is highly problematic because it accumulates to high concentrations which can be a risk to human health.
At this point, you’re probably thinking that there’s no way your home has radon. Well, unfortunately, all homes in Canada have radon gas. The only thing that differs is the amount of radon in each home. This will greatly vary depending on multiple factors such as which area the house is located in. Of course, the higher amount of uranium found in rocks and soil usually means a higher radon concentration. However, we want to emphasize that no matter how similar a home is in relation to another home, there is absolutely no way to be certain what the radon concentration is without a radon test. In other words, radon levels will vary greatly from one home to another even if they’re right next to each other.
At this you might be wondering how exactly radon makes its way into your home. Remember, radon is a naturally occurring gas. This means that radon can move from the ground into homes/buildings from any opening between the two. This can be through wall-cracks, floor slabs, construction joints, wall cavities, window casement, through pipes, etc. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for radon to enter your home and this is why every home in Canada has it.
Now that you know what radon is and how it can get into your home, it’s time to answer the most important question: Why should you care about radon?
The answer to that is actually fairly simple: exposure to radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Yes, you read that right! It is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers!
Let’s recall that radon is radioactive. This means that when radon is inhaled, it decays into radioactive particles within the lungs. These particles release small amounts of energy which is absorbed by the lung tissue and eventually damages the cells found there. These damaged cells have the potential to cause lung cancer during cell reproduction. As such, breathing in a higher concentration of radon can greatly increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Remember, the poison is in the dose! It is important to mention that this risk is also dependent on factors such as exposure time, if you take tobacco, etc.
If you suspect that you might be exposed to radon, protect yourself and get your home tested immediately! As they say: better safe than sorry!