Presentation exposes indoor air quality problems
Radon accounts for more than half of our total average annual exposure to radiation, which is one big reason Megan Keating was in ITD’s Headquarters Auditorium Wednesday (Feb. 3). According to the Surgeon General, millions of homes (and workplaces) are estimated to have elevated levels. And “indoor radon gas is a serious health problem in our nation.”
Idaho is at a particularly elevated risk – more than 35 percent of the homes in the state are above the standard threshold. Nationally, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Radon, a large component - more than 60 percent- of the natural radiation that humans are exposed to, can pose a threat to the public health when it accumulates in poorly ventilated residential and occupational settings as a gas. Fortunately, as Keating explained, we can take steps to mitigate the problem.
We can get outdoors more often. On average, we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, and indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air.
Radon cannot be seen or smelled, so there is no warning. However, we should be aware that some groups are more susceptible to indoor air pollution (children, elderly, chronically ill, those with respiratory and cardiovascular disease).
Keating, a Health Education Specialist for the Indoor Environment Health Section at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said that miners and workers at underground nuclear facilities are much more at risk than the general population, but that construction excavators can be at risk.
The amount of radon coming from the earth and forming inside homes and building varies considerably by region and locality, and can be widely influenced by the residential structure, soil and atmospheric conditions.
Besides local geology, other factors that can lead to elevated levels of radon include how porous the soil is, foundation type, location, building materials, soil gas entry points, building ventilation and source of water supply. Smokers also have an elevated risk.
However, many lung cancer deaths in homes are those who never smoked – radon was the culprit. Radon in homes causes 11% of lung cancer deaths among ever-smokers, but 23% among never-smokers.
Keating also discussed the negative health impacts created by lead, mold and carbon monoxide.
Here’s a list of certified radon testers and mitigators: www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov
EPA resources and materials on radon can be found at: www.epa.gov/radon/
Keating can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org