It is a common misconception that only people who smoked are at risk for lung cancer. The truth is there are a variety of things that can cause damage to your lungs and may eventually lead to lung cancer. In fact, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., responsible for an estimated 21,000 related lung cancer deaths each year, has nothing to do with tobacco but is instead a toxic gas in the air.
Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of the elements like uranium, thorium, and radium in the soil. This colorless, tasteless and odorless gas can collect at dangerous levels inside homes, schools and other buildings. It often enters buildings through cracks in walls, basement floors, foundations and other small openings. Less frequently, radon may enter buildings from water used in bathroom showers and faucets. Though many people think of their home as a safe haven, it is estimated that one in 15 houses have dangerous levels of radon.
"My grandmother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and a couple of months later she was taken from us, which led us all to feel extremely confused because we never knew the cause," actress and activist Shantel Van Santen explained.
"It wasn’t until we tested her home for radon that we found extremely high levels and were told that it was the cause [of her lung cancer]. I think that the anger that we all felt was justified considering that if we had only been educated, we would have tested the home. Had we only known, maybe she would still be living."
Shantel has been a powerful voice for LUNG FORCE ever since her 79-year-old grandmother, Doris, passed away from lung cancer. "It was her wish that her story be shared in order to inspire others. That is what led me to educate myself so I could share with everyone about how radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and it doesn’t have to be."
That is the good news.
Radon may be a silent killer, but there are many ways that you can protect yourself and your family. The first step is to test your home, and long-term monitoring offers the best way to know your overall exposure. "Even if you are just renting, test it. If you are buying a home, test it. If you have lived in your home for five years, test it. I cannot stress this enough because radon levels change constantly, and it is something that can save your life."
If you find elevated levels of radon, you can fix the problem by having a radon mitigation system installed. This system collects radon gas from underneath the foundation and vents it to the outside of your home. "Test your homes, push for legislation to test your kids’ schools. I cannot stress enough how important it is. There are test kits online or in most hardware stores, they are not expensive, and they can save your life."
Starting during this November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Airthings will donate $1 from each Airthings Wave, Wave Plus, Wave Mini and Corentium Home radon and indoor air quality monitors sold on Airthings.com through October 31, 2020, with a minimum donation of $25,000 to the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative to support lung cancer research.