January 2019: Ohio Recognizes Radon Action Month

Here at Environmental Doctor in Dayton Ohio, we’re starting off the year with National Radon Action Month! Did you know that radon gas is dangerous and causes approximately 20,000 deaths in the US each year? In order to increase awareness on the risks of radon gas, undetectable to the naked eye and nose, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared January to be National Radon Action Month.

Why increase radon levels awareness? The best way to prevent a health risk from radon is to be educated on the subject and inform others. Most classify this type of gas as “the silent killer: radon,” which was actually a famous slogan years ago; in order to market radon testing in homes. Furthermore, radon is a leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and unfortunately it’s a harmful odorless gas. We can’t see radon gas, we can’t smell radon gas and we can’t taste radon. Although we have made vast improvements on radon testing locally and across the nation, the public tends to forget that it’s still very much alive. Think about the places you and your loved ones spend the most time in. Whether it’s at home, a friend’s garage or relative’s home, school or work, radon is formed from the ground up. Naturally.

Radon Action Month

So may ask yourselves… What is radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas which is formed from the natural breakdown in uranium from rock, soil, and water. This odorless gas (radon) then travels up through cracks and spaces in your home’s foundation. The EPA advises that for National Radon Action Month, we test our homes, spread the word and encourage others to test their homes or commercial buildings and to learn more about radon gas risks. And as always, the Environmental Doctor is here to help you with indoor air testing in Ohio and to answer any questions.

Radon Found to Cause Malignant Skin Cancer

Study: Radon’s Poses Stronger Risk of Skin Cancer for Young People

The importance of radon testing and the dangers of radon as the second largest cause of lung cancer are well known. But now scientists are discovering that radon also increases the risk of malignant skin cancer.

Published in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the study titled “Effects of Radon and UV Exposure on Skin Cancer Mortality in Switzerland” examines the impact of radon and UV exposure on mortality due to malignant skin cancer in Switzerland.

Medical Xpress reports:

“The study analysed 1,900 deaths due to malignant melanoma which occurred throughout Switzerland between 2000 and 2008 in people aged 20 years and above. The residential radon exposure was modeled on the basis of 45,000 measurements and accounted for the housing’s characteristics and the geological conditions of the area.”

“Our study shows that, when radon decays, radioactive alpha particles not only destroy lung tissue but can also affect the skin. This has rarely been researched in the past,” says Martin Röösli, professor for environmental epidemiology at Swiss TPH, who wrote the study together with Danielle Vienneau, senior scientific collaborator at the Institute.

Risk More Dangerous for the Young

Alarmingly, the younger the individual is, the more at risk they are at developing the disease. For the 30-year-olds, the relative risk for skin cancer increases around 50% per 100 Bq/mᵌ increase in radon exposure, while for the 60-year-olds it is considerably lower (16%).

“The younger the individual is, the greater the impact of radon on the risk of developing the disease,” Röösli told Medical Xpress. “The strengths of the Swiss TPH study are that it was a longitudinal analysis of the total population of Switzerland and that the effects of radon were modeled for every single household.”

As if there wasn’t already a need to test and remediate radon, especially in Dayton, OH, now we’ve got one more reason, thanks to science.

Radon Testing Reveals High Levels in PA

If you live or have family or friends living in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, testing your water for radon may be a good idea before drinking anything out of the tap. Government testing found radon concentration levels in the water that exceeded health standards. Samples were also found to contain arsenic or methane in levels higher than recommended safety standards.

Tests were first carried out in 2014 by the US Geological Survey to assess groundwater and the environmental effects of mining and gas extraction efforts. Property owners participated voluntarily.

Wells were randomly selected and some were located near mining sites.

“As in many parts of the state, water quality data were lacking in Lycoming County,” said Gross, a physical scientist with the USGS’ Pennsylvania Water Science Center.  “This study provides much-needed information. The number of water samples was relatively small, so we can’t draw definitive conclusions about water quality throughout the county. But we want residents who get their water from private wells to know about our results, and to be aware that the EPA recommends regular testing of private drinking water wells.”

Water Samples Above Recommended Levels

Radon detection revealed radon-222, a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in some types of rock. Radon 222 is the second largest cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking. Two thirds of all water samples in the county tested above recommended levels.

“One of our goals was to collect baseline information, so future studies can determine whether there is a relationship between human activities and well water chemistry,” Gross said. “The variations in water quality that we saw can generally be explained by natural processes. In some instances human activities may play a role. For example, we found a wide range of levels of chloride, or salt, from less than 1 milligram per liter to nearly 1,000 milligrams per liter. The higher levels could be from road de-icing salts.”

Radon is an odorless but deadly gas. Whether you own your home or live in an apartment, radon testing is recommended for the health of the family. According to the EPA, radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, including 2,900 nonsmokers. At 20 pCi/L, the radon exposure is estimated to be 250 times the risk of drowning. At even 4 pCi/L, the exposure is thought to be five times the risk of dying in a car crash. At these levels, the EPA recommends a UV air cleaner and radon eradication.

As of June 2018, new homes and buildings in Powell, Ohio will be required to mitigate radon; which is a radioactive gas prevalent in Ohio. Could this be the first step in future regulation for radon mitigation systems nationwide? Existing homes and commercial buildings will not be affected by the new regulation in Powell City. If you’re worried about the radon status in your apartment, home or office building, give us a call to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. We’re available to service radon mitigation in Dayton Ohio, as well as in the neighboring cities and communities of Ohio.

Prison Radon Testing Reveals Exposure 5x EPA’s Safe Levels

When it comes to radon, homeowners have a choice: they can test for radon to ensure their family is living in healthy conditions. Prisoners, on the other hand, just have to accept whatever environment the state or federal authorities institutionalize them in. Last summer, prisoners at the Garner Correctional Institution (GCI) in Newtown, Connecticut filed a Class Action lawsuit stating their living facilities are radon contaminated. In 2014, radon testing revealed parts of the facility to be more than five times the acceptable EPA levels of radon, an odorless, colorless radioactive gas that is the second largest cause of lung cancer, behind smoking.

“The lawsuit was filed in August 2016 on behalf of nine named plaintiffs and other GCI prisoners who were exposed to excessive indoor radon gas, a recognized carcinogen,” the Prison Legal News reported on the lawsuit. “According to the complaint, exposing prisoners to high levels of radon gas, ‘far in excess of any published safe level for more than 20 years,’ constitutes deliberate indifference by prison officials.”

Radon Exposure Equivalent to 2.5 Packs of Cigarettes

State tests indicated that 58 of 117 test locations at GCI had radon levels at or above the EPA’s action level of 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air). The highest level of radon at 23.7 – the equivalent of smoking 2½ packs of cigarettes a day, pretty ironic, as today’s prisoners are denied access to tobacco products out of health concerns, yet they can’t breathe the cafeteria air safely. Whether you are institutionalized or not, radon poisoning is definitely not something you want to mess with.

Study Links Radon Blood Cancer Risk, Home Air Testing Recommended

Radon poisoning has long been known to be the second most common cause of lung cancer next to smoking, and the most common among nonsmokers, but a recent study also indicates that it can cause blood cancers in women.

An increase in the risk for hematologic malignancies in women was found even after moderate levels of exposure. Led by the American Cancer Society, the 2016 study is the first prospective, population-based study of residential radon exposure and hematologic cancer risk. The results of the study are published in Science Daily.

Even Moderate Exposure Dangerous

“Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and now we have this second set of cancers that we think is associated with even moderate levels of radon,”  lead researcher Lauren Teras, PhD, strategic director of hematologic cancer research at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Atlanta, told Medscape Medical News.

Teras recommends radon testing and remediation to minimize radon exposure.

“Once they have gone through the process, people can eliminate or vastly reduce their exposure to radon,” Teras said.