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What is Radon Poisoning?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Radon poisoning is a type of poisoning that stems from the breathing of radon gas. The poisoning is most likely to occur in homes where radon gas is present in significant amounts, though any amount of the radioactive gas can be problematic. Most homes have at least some amount of radon. If the levels are very high, and there is prolonged exposure, it can lead to cancer over time.

To determine whether a home is at risk of radon poisoning, there are a number of different things that can be done. A radon home testing kit can analyze and provide results. Some homes may even have radon detectors, which are similar to smoke detectors, and can read radon on a nearly constant basis. If the result of the test indicates a radon level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher, a follow-up test should be done because radon poisoning is a possibility.

The risk of radon poisoning can be a problem nearly anywhere. The gas is naturally present as the result of decaying uranium, which is found in many different types of soils. The radon is radioactive but in the open is not much of a problem. It can leak into the home through cracks in the foundation or in a basement. It may also come in through a line for a well, but this is much less common. In most cases, the most dangerous room for radon is the basement.

If radon is a problem in your home, there are a number of things you can do to remedy the situation. First, repair any cracks in the foundation. Second, installing a venting system and fan in the basement or crawlspace of a home can prevent radon from ever entering the home. In most cases, it is best to consult a professional for such systems.

The main danger from radon exposure is lung cancer. As radon gets inhaled, it begins to break down in the lungs over time. As it does, it turns to lead. This lead in the lungs is a cause of cancer. Therefore, radon poisoning symptoms are no different than those symptoms that are experienced by anyone suffering lung cancer. A persistent cough, shortness of breath, and coughing up blood are some of the more common symptoms.

The treatment for radon poisoning is the same as the treatment would be for any type of lung cancer. It depends on the stage of the cancer, but surgery, chemotherapy, and even radiation are all possibilities. If radon is found in a home that one has lived in for a long time, then it may be a good idea to have a chest X-ray, as successful treatment is often dependent on an early diagnosis.

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