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What Should I do About Radon Exposure?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Radon is a carcinogenic, gaseous element that is released when deposits of uranium break down in rocks and soil. It is invisible and odorless, and virtually impossible to detect without special equipment. An individual who has been exposed to high levels of radon over a long period of time is at a very high risk of developing lung cancer, which can lead to difficulty breathing and speaking, chronic coughing, and chest pain. There are several steps that people can do to stop radon exposure and get treatment for their symptoms. Individuals can check their homes for radon by using test kits or hiring professional inspectors, improve ventilation systems, and visit physicians to handle personal health concerns.

The first step in dealing with radon exposure is discovering how much, if any, radon is actually inside a home or building. Places that are most susceptible to radon are those that are built on or near contaminated ground. Radon gas is especially likely to invade homes with basements and cracked foundations. A home or business owner can test for radon using a commercial radon exposure kit, which can detect and measure radon levels over time. Test equipment alerts individuals if radon levels are discovered to be higher than average, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States and similar organizations in other countries.

Experts from governmental agencies and private enterprises may also provide radon exposure testing by using more sophisticated equipment. Professionals are usually able to determine radon levels immediately through careful inspections of basements and other areas in a home, school, or business. When excessive levels of gas are detected, experts consider the best ways of reducing radon exposure.

In many cases, homes and buildings can get rid of radon by improving ventilation. Simply opening windows once a day, repairing foundations and sealing openings around doors can significantly reduce radon exposure. New ventilation systems and radon sump pumps can be installed in basements to further reduce radon levels. Homes with extremely high or persistent radon levels may need to be abandoned to preserve the health of a family.

Individuals who have been exposed to radon do not usually show any immediate symptoms. Rather, radon exposure over time frequently leads to the development of lung cancer. People with progressive lung cancer may experience coughing, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chronic chest pain. Doctors and oncologists can perform tests to diagnose lung cancer, and prescribe treatment solutions such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery to remove cancerous tissue.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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