As cold weather has us spending more time indoors, public health leaders have designated January as Radon Action Month. You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but it could be present at a dangerous level in your home. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers, claiming the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year. Residents can protect their health by testing the indoor air in their homes.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from rocks and dirt in the ground and escapes into the air everywhere. Radon exposure doesn’t cause any immediate symptoms, so it is very easy for people to be unaware that they are being exposed. Current and former smokers are much more vulnerable to radon exposure than people who have never smoked. Because radon is a colorless, odorless gas that cannot be detected with your senses, testing is the only way to know if you have high radon levels in your home.
Nearly half of all homes in Southwestern Virginia are vulnerable to high levels of radon, but the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has found high levels of radon in homes in every Virginia county. Homes in the same neighborhood can have differing levels of radon indoors, so the U.S. Surgeon General encourages every household to have their home tested regardless of geographic location or type of foundation of your home.
Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:
- How much radon is in your home
- The amount of time you spend in your home
- Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked
Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk. Testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure. If a high radon level is detected in your home, radon problems are almost always fixable with corrective steps to protect your household.
Things You Can Do During National Radon Action Month:
- Testing is easy and inexpensive. Learn more about testing your home, including how to obtain an easy-to-use test kit from VDH for $3 per kit at vdhradon.org. Kits are also for sale at most home improvement stores or online.
- Already have a radon mitigation unit in your house? Units should be tested at least every two years, or more often if living arrangements change, such as turning a basement into livable space suitable for occupancy.
- Spread the word about Radon Action Month by encouraging others to learn about radon and how to test their homes.
- Plan an activity in your community to help raise awareness of the importance of testing.
- Building a home? Learn more about construction techniques that help prevent radon from entering a home that are practical and straightforward for any builder.
Because radon is a leading environmental cause of cancer mortality in the United States, it is imperative that residents are informed about the health risks of extended radon exposure. Protect yourself and your family by getting your home tested!
-Christie Wills, Communications officer
Roanoke City & Alleghany Health Districts