From the Harford County Health Department:
Harford County, Maryland, January 26, 2015 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated January as National Radon Action Month to increase the public’s awareness of radon, promote radon testing and mitigation, and advance the use of radon-resistant, new construction practices.
Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted but without noticing, can be present at dangerous levels in your home. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths, making radon the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America, claiming the lives of an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Americans each year. Since it is difficult to identify any immediate symptoms related to radon exposure and might take years before health problems appear, understanding radon is important.
Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in Harford County, accounting for nearly one of every three cancer deaths. Most recent data Maryland Cancer Registry data through 2011 reflects that, while the actual number of lung and bronchus cancer cases statewide increased slightly about 1% annually between 2009 and 2011, incidence rates (that is, the number of diagnosed cases per 100,000 population) have dropped slightly in each of past three years. Alarmingly, a comparison of Harford County data over that same period shows the number of cases rose in 2009, 2010 and 2011 from 156 to 171, to 177, respectively. Lung cancer incidence rates also continued to rise from 61.5 in 2009, to 64.8, in 2010 to 66.7 in 2011 per 100,000 population.
“As early as 2005, then U.S. Surgeon General, Richard H. Carmona, issued a Health Advisory warning Americans about the health risk from exposure to radon in indoor air, urging all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools, and other buildings for radon,” comments Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly. “Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk, and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure. If a high radon level is detected in your home, there are steps you can take to fix the problem to protect yourself and your family.”
Radon gas is produced from the natural breakdown of the uranium found in most rocks and soils. It usually does not present a health risk outdoors because it is diluted in the open air. Inside buildings, however, it can build up to dangerous levels by entering though cracks in solid floors and walls, construction joints, gaps in suspended floors and around service pipes, cavities inside walls and in the water supply.
“The EPA maps Harford County in the high risk zone for radon exposure,” states Kevin Barnaba, Director of Environmental Health Services for the Health Department. “Citizens in the county should be aware of this fact. The Health Department urges people to have their homes tested for radon. In cases where radon levels are exceedingly high, there are ways to mitigate the gas from your home.”
New homes can be built using simple and inexpensive radon-resistant features that are effective in preventing radon entry. In addition, installing them at the time of construction makes it easier and less expensive to reduce radon levels, if necessary.
Having your home tested is the only effective way to determine whether you or your family is at risk of radon exposure. Steps you can take to reduce radon levels include purchasing a radon test kit, conducting testing your home or office, sending the kit to appropriate sources to determine radon levels, and fixing your home if radon levels are high.
Barnaba recommends persons interested in finding a qualified radon service professional to test or mitigate your home go to following links; http://www.nrsb.org/find_a_professional.asp or http://www.nrpp.info/.
For more information about health risks of radon and radon mitigation, visit the federal Environmental Protection Agency website at http://www.epa.gov/radon/index.html and call or visit the Harford County Health Department website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com. Also, “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon” is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at: http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/citguide.html.