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Indoor Air Quality and Radon, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 646

Essay

According to Steven Gagnon, at room temperature (72 degrees F.), the element radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas and is created through the breakdown of the radioactive element radium. Although radon gas is considered to be nominally hazardous, it can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and cause severe health problems, such as lung cancer. Also, if a home is located over the site of a radon deposit, the gas can affect the air quality by seeping into the house; however, in the natural environment, radon gas is extremely rare, due to the earth’s atmosphere containing only 0.0000000000000000001% radon (“It’s Elemental: The Element Radon”).

Naturally-occurring deposits of radon via the breakdown of radium are rather common but depends almost wholly on the geographical location of the home or business in question related to radon gas seeping into a dwelling or building. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 20,000 Americans die every year from lung cancer as a result of being exposed to radon gas. Considering the number of people currently living in the U.S., 20,000 is minimal. However, “exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking” because it is considered as a carcinogen. Also, lung cancer “is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air” (“Radon,” EPA), meaning that if a person was directly exposed to radon, the negative effects on health would be much more serious. Obviously, the best way to prevent lung cancer associated with radon exposure is to quit smoking, due to the fact that 99% of the 20,000 Americans that die from lung cancer each year have been exposed to radon as a carcinogen.

However, just because a home is located in a geographical area in the U.S. that has been determined to be low in radon gas exposure does not mean that the homeowner should not have the air quality in his/her home tested. In 2009, the EPA put together a map showing which geographical areas are most susceptible to radon gas exposure. Out of three specific levels (1, 2, and 3), Americans living in the lower Midwest and west of the Mississippi River were more exposed to radon gas. Therefore, regardless of location, the EPA suggests that all homes should be tested for radon gas levels (“Radon,” EPA).

Fortunately, there are several things that homeowners can do to lower their exposure to radon. The first step would be to have one’s home tested for radon levels, and if the levels are too high, being more than 4 pCi/L (Picocuries Per Liter), the homeowner would be advised to do one of two things–first, have a vent pipe system and fan, known in the industry as a soil suction radon reduction system (“Radon,” EPA) installed under the house which pulls radon gas from the air and vents it outside; if this is not possible because of the costs involved, the homeowner should seal up all cracks in the house foundation, especially if the house has a basement or the foundation of the house sits on the ground (“Radon,” EPA).

As for myself, I recently had my home tested for radon gas and the levels were below the EPA acceptable level of 4 pCi/L; however, this low number does not guarantee that in the future, additional radon gas may enter the house due to the slow decomposition of radium/uranium in the ground. As the EPA points out, everything depends on the geographical location of your home, meaning that homes located in areas where radium/uranium occurs naturally are at a higher risk for exposure to radon gas. Overall, it is a good idea as suggested by the EPA to have one’s home tested on an annual basis.

Works Cited

Gagnon, Steven. “It’s Elemental: The Element Radon.” Web. 2011. Accessed 18 November 2012. http://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele086.html

“Radon.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 2012. Accessed 19 November 2012. http://www.epa.gov/radon/aboutus.html

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