Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, resulting in approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Only smoking causes more lung cancer.
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water within the earth. As this gas escapes, it can find its way into homes through small openings and can build up inside the home.
Elevated radon levels in homes are common in colder climates where homes are sealed against the weather and kept closed for much of the year. Of the tests conducted in Kent County homes during recent years, one in every seven (16%) have come back elevated.
Many things contribute to a home's radon levels, including characteristics of the home itself. As a result, radon is very site specific. Just because your neighbor doesn't have radon in their home will not guarantee that you don't have radon in yours!
What are the Effects of Radon?
Radon can cause long-term health issues for children as well as for adults. However, most of the effects of radon are not seen for many years after exposure. The leading effect of radon is lung cancer.
Several studies have demonstrated that children are more susceptible to radon exposure than adults. Children's lungs are different and children breathe more rapidly than adults, resulting in more exposure. Children are also at much greater risk because they spend a significant portion of their young lives inside the home, where radon can accumulate to dangerous levels.
One study estimates that children at six years of age are at the greatest risk of radon.
There are no early symptoms of radon exposure and no easy way to test individuals for exposure. The best prevention is to test the home.
Testing your home for radon is very simple. It is a self-test that is easy to do and takes 3-7 days. The Healthy Homes Coalition can help you get your home tested. Healthy Homes currently has special funding to test the homes of low-income children for free. Those who are not eligible for this special program can get a do-it-yourself test kit from either the Kent County Health Department or Healthy Homes for $5.00.
Or, if you'd like to order your test kit online, you can order one from the Air Check, Inc. partnership with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality by clicking here. Kits through this partnership cost $6.95.
The negative effects from radon are 100% preventable. Test your home. If your home has elevated levels of radon, get it fixed as soon as possible. The average cost of fixing a radon problem in the U.S. is $1,200. Low-income families may qualify for assistance in home repairs.
For more information on testing your home or getting repairs for radon, see our pages specifically for Parents, Landlords, and Community Partners. Or contact the Healthy Homes Coalition at (616) 241-3300.
Making sure children grow up in homes that are healthy and safe is everyone’s job! The Healthy Homes Coalition is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Learn more about specific ways you can help protect children. Connect with us today!