SSM Health Medical Minute – Radon is second leading cause of lung cancer

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ST. LOUIS - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon-induced lung cancer costs the United States over $2 billion per year in both direct and indirect health care costs.

That’s why community resource nurse Kim Emge with SSM Health spends time educating her peers and the community about what you need to know about radon and how to protect yourself.

A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site. (25 mrem limit, 800 mrem exposure) An elementary school student that spends 8 hours per day and 180 days per year in a classroom with 4 pCi/L of radon will receive nearly 10 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant. (25 mrem limit, 200 mrem exposure)

Should you test for radon?

Testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon. It typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface. The US EPA, Surgeon General, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, and National Safety Council recommend testing your home for radon because testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels.

Radon is a national environmental health problem. Elevated radon levels have been discovered in every state. The US EPA estimates that as many as 8 million homes throughout the country have elevated levels of radon. Current state surveys show that 1 home in 5 has elevated radon levels.

Can you fix the problem?

If your home has high concentrations of radon there are ways to reduce it to acceptable levels. Most radon problems can be fixed by a do-it-yourselfer for less than $500. If you want or require the assistance of a professional you may wish to look at the list of certified radon mitigators for your state.

To learn more about lunch cancer prevention and treatments click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Thursday at 7 PM on KPLR News 11 and at 9 PM on KTVI Fox 2 News.