What Are the Symptoms of Radon Exposure?

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When you first move into a new home or office building, having it tested for radon gas probably isn’t the first thing on your to-do list. In fact, you may not even be aware it’s something you should be considering. 

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is released when radioactive elements (like uranium and thorium) in soil and rocks start to decay. This gas is odorless, colorless and tasteless, which means it’s impossible to detect without a specially designed radon test.

Here, we’ll outline the symptoms of radon exposure and steps you can take to easily lower daily exposure.

Radon’s Effect on the Body

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., trailing only behind cigarette smoking. 

Symptoms of radon exposure are not immediately evident and may take years to appear. When they do appear, symptoms can include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Frequent infections like bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

While no one is immune from the health effects of radon exposure, there are some factors that can increase your risk. These include:

  • Smoking: People who smoke are estimated to be 25 times more at risk of developing radon-related lung cancer than people who don’t smoke. 
  • Geographic location: Elevated levels of radon are more common in certain parts of the world due to varying geological factors, such as the permeability of local rocks and soils and the amount of uranium present. Most of Oregon falls into the EPA’s Radon Zone 2 designation, which means our area has moderate potential for indoor radon levels to be higher than average. Additionally, Portland accounts for some of the highest levels of radon in the state. 
  • Building materials and access points: Radon gas can enter your home through cracks or holes in your foundation, gaps between pipes, wells, cracks in your floor or walls, or other openings that are wide enough to let gas seep through. Radon can also be released by certain building products, though this is less common. The more routes available for radon to creep in, the more likely it is for your home to have elevated levels of radon.
  • At-home habits: Burning substances such as wood and coal that add particles to the air inside your home can also affect your radon-related health risks.

The good news is that the symptoms and health risks related to radon exposure are largely preventable. It’s important to find out how much radon is present in your home or business so you can take the necessary steps if your radon levels are elevated.

What You Can Do About Radon in Your Home

You can limit the exposure to radon in your home by taking a few extra precautions. While it’s not possible to completely eliminate the presence of radon, taking some steps can minimize its impact. The first step in lowering your risk is understanding your risk. 

Radon Testing

Radon testing is easy and inexpensive, and it can keep you from having to wonder whether your home contains dangerous levels of radon. 

There are a few different kinds of tests, including short-term radon testing, long-term radon testing and continuous radon monitoring. Short-term tests can return results in as little as two days, making them ideal for real estate transactions. However, to get the most accurate results, radon testing is best performed over a long period of time to account for natural fluctuations in radon levels that occur throughout the year. For this reason, long-term radon testing and continuous radon monitoring are recommended to fully understand your risk.

While DIY home testing kits are available, radon testing is best handled by trained professionals. Testing kits can only detect the presence of radon gas, which leaves you with little information about the level that is present and where it might be entering the building.

Radon is measured in either picocuries per liter or Becquerels per cubic meter, both of which measure the concentration of radon gas in the air. If testing indicates that your home’s level of radon is at or above 148 Becquerels per cubic meter (or four picocuries per liter), the EPA recommends taking action to reduce the amount of radon in your home.

Radon Mitigation

Radon mitigation can reduce radon levels in your home within acceptable levels. Just like radon testing, mitigation is often affordable and can help prevent radon gas from rising above acceptable levels.

Mitigation often involves a mixture of depressurization barriers and simple ventilation systems that lower the amount of radon that enters your home. These radon mitigation systems will work for most homes, though large homes with more elaborate foundations may require alternative methods.

Contact Us for Radon Services in Portland, OR

Because radon gas can’t be detected through the senses, radon testing and mitigation are the only ways to lower your risk of developing the symptoms and health consequences associated with radon exposure inside your home. Get peace of mind schedule your radon test today! 

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