What is Radon Poisoning?

Summary: This section looks at the topic of radon poisoning. You will find discussion about causes and solutions for the home.

Poisoning from many sources can occur in the home, often from substances we are not aware of or from substances that we did not know were harmful. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally as a by-product of decaying uranium.

Radon is colorless, odourless and tasteless, and it is one of the densest elements that can remain a gas under typically normal conditions. Because radon is radioactive, it is a health hazard and can cause lung cancer when inhaled. Radon gas is the second most common cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking.cancer caused by radon

Can you do anything about radon, and if so, what? Is radon poisoning a concern in your home, and how can you tell? Radon is more common in areas that have higher concentrations of uranium and in poorly ventilated enclosed areas. Uranium is naturally present everywhere in the earth’s crust, with higher concentrations in certain types of ore, such as granite and shale.

In the United States, the state of Iowa has high concentrations of uranium in the soil due to the granite-rich glacial deposits that make up its farmland. Pennsylvania and the Appalachian mountains also have elevated uraniumlevels. Radon concentrations are lowest in open-air areas and over the ocean, where they are lowest of all. The average home has higher levels of radioactivity than the maximum amount allowed at the fenced perimeter of a nuclear power plant.

Can you stop radon? Because uranium is a natural part of the environment, radon can’t be eliminated, and the low concentrations found in the open air are generally not harmful. The danger lies in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, such as caves, mining shafts and attics and basements of homes.

Depending on how a house is constructed, radon can accumulate in the basement as uranium in the surrounding earth decomposes and uranium seeps through the foundation. If not allowed to escape, the radon accumulates over time, sometimes reaching dangerous levels. Because the gas is colorless, odourless and tasteless, unsuspecting people have no idea that they are inhaling gas in high concentrations that make it more dangerous than cigarette smoke. Radon can also find its way into the water supply, where it escapes into the air when the water reaches the surface.

Radon poisoning usually occurs in the respiratory system, after a sufficient amount of its radioactive particles are inhaled, to damage the DNA of the lungs. Symptoms include a persistent cough, chest pains, wheezing, coughing up blood and recurring respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These symptoms are warning signs of a serious illness that may be transforming into lung cancer, and anyone who is experiencing them should seek medical attention without hesitation.

In the question of what amount of radon isn’t safe and what is, radon poisoning can occur at different levels, depending on the person. Home radon test kits are available if you want to check the radon levels in your home to see if they are within ‘acceptable’ levels, although no amount of radon is completely safe.