Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year. In fact, the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools, and other buildings for radon.
Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas released from the normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil. It seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air, and in a few areas, dissolves into groundwater and can be released into the air when the water is used. Radon gas usually exists at very low levels outdoors. However, in areas without adequate ventilation, such as underground mines, radon can accumulate to levels that substantially increase the risk of lung cancer.
For both adults and children, most exposure to radon comes from being indoors in homes, offices, schools, and other buildings. The levels of radon in homes and other buildings depend on the characteristics of the rock and soil in the area. As a result, radon levels vary greatly in different parts of the United States, sometimes even within neighborhoods.
Being exposed to radon can be extremely harmful. Radon gas in the air breaks down quickly, giving off tiny radioactive particles. When inhaled, these radioactive particles can damage the cells that line the lung. Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer, the only cancer proven to be associated with inhaling radon.
Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure. If a high radon level is detected in your home, you can take steps to fix the problem to protect yourself and your family. In Alabama, 15 counties have been identified as having the highest potential for elevated radon levels. They are Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Morgan, Shelby, and Talladega. Learn how to protect yourself and your family from radon exposure with information and resources from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found here. For local information and resources about radon testing and potential radon risks by county visit Alabama’s Radon Program website here.