Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States every year. During January for Radon Action Month, the American Lung Association is urging everyone to test their home for radon.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas emitted from the ground. Radon can enter a home through cracks in floors, basement walls, foundations and other openings. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates about 1 in 15 homes reach elevated levels of radon.
Lindi Campbell was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017. She had two lobes of her right lung removed and was considered cancer-free until a recurrence in her other lung a year and a half later. Campbell now takes a daily targeted therapy drug and has been recurrence free since August 2020.
Since Campbell didn’t have the typical risk factors for lung cancer, she suspects her cancer was attributed to radon and secondhand smoke she was exposed to early in her life. Radon is prevalent in her home state of Kentucky and after her diagnosis, she had professional radon testing performed in the home she lived in for 21 years that revealed very high levels of radon.
“Although you cannot see, smell or taste radon, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and the number one cause in people who have never smoked. For those who have been exposed to secondhand smoke and radon, like me, the risk for lung cancer is even greater,” Campbell said. “I came to understand that no one is immune from a lung cancer diagnosis, and I have since turned this horrible life circumstance into my life’s purpose.”
The only way to detect radon in your home is to test the air. Fortunately, do-it-yourself test kits are simple to use and inexpensive. EPA urges anyone with radon levels at or above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) to take action by installing a mitigation system in their homes. Both the EPA and the American Lung Association recommend that mitigation be considered if levels are greater than 2 pCi/L. After high levels are detected, a radon mitigation system should be installed by a radon professional.
A typical radon mitigation system consists of a vent pipe, fan, and properly sealing cracks and other openings. This system collects radon gas from underneath the foundation and vents it to the outside of your home. If you need to have a radon mitigation system installed, contact your state radon program for a list of certified radon mitigation professionals.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.