WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RADON IN WISCONSIN
Keep Your Family Safe by Understanding the Dangers of Radon
If you're a homeowner in SE Wisconsin, you've probably heard about the dangers of high Radon levels in your house. You've probably also successfully pushed radon exposure worries into the back of your mind, or disregarded them completely as scare tactics. We hardly blame you. It isn't nice to think about your home causing you or your family to be ill.
If you do not know much about Radon (what it is, how it affects you, etc.), now is the time to learn.
What is Radon?
Radon is an elemental noble gas which occurs naturally from the decay of radium. As uranium and thorium begin their slow decomposition, they turn into lead. Radium is the product of the middle stages of this decay chain. When radium breaks down it produces radon, which is the densest substance to remain a gas in its natural form. When the gaseous radon deteriorates, it produces radioactive solids called radon daughters. These solids stick to dust particles and will attach to the airways of the lungs if inhaled and have been linked to cancer.
The majority of the background radiation humans experience is from radon exposure when the gas accumulates in buildings. Radon enters buildings through direct contact with soil at the lowest level of construction and can seep in through foundation cracks, dirt floor basements, service pipe, wall cavities and even the water supply, among others.
Radon causes harm slowly and very quietly through steady exposure. This can be considered the good news. The bad news: radon is present in varying levels in almost every Wisconsin region, which means your home and family could already be exposed.
So What's so Bad About a Little Radon Exposure?
The operative word here is "little". Radon is a radioactive gas, but as long as your radon exposure remains at low levels, relative harm from radiation will be minimal. The EPA recommends radon mitigation if levels are above 4.0 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). The problem is, you will not likely know the levels of radon you are exposed to until you get your home tested, because radon gas is tasteless and odorless and does not cause immediate symptoms when you are exposed.
What are the Long Term Consequences of Radon in Your Home?
Studies have presented evidence which show long term exposure to high radon levels is second only to smoking as a leading cause of lung cancer, and is associated with 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to the American Cancer Society. Smokers exposed to radon increase their cancer risk tenfold.
If you know you've been exposed to high levels of radon in your home or are experiencing the following symptoms, consult a physician and be sure to get regular checkups:
- shortness of breath
- chest tightness or pain
- difficulty in swallowing
- a new or worsening cough
How Can I avoid Radon?
Radon occurs naturally when the uranium in rocks and soil, which are created by the slow weathering of bedrock, begins to decay. Bedrock can produce varying levels of uranium, so certain areas may be less radioactive than others. In Wisconsin, however, the glacial movement which created the Great Lakes also spread radioactive material across nearly all regions of the state.
Radon concentrations are higher in some places than others, but if you live in WI, you will likely experience some radon exposure. Check here to see your region's average exposure rate. The best way to reduce your risk of radon exposure is to contact a professional at Tri County Home Inspections for quality radon testing services.
Why You Should Be Concerned about Your Well Water
If you use well water in your home, like most of Waukesha County, one of the most common ways radon infiltrates your house is through the water pipes. This risk is higher with private well use. Water pumped from the ground is exposed to the same radiation-carrying soil and rock, then escapes into the air when you run your water. This can add 1 pCi/L of radon into the air per 10,000 pCi/L pumped in through the water. Ingesting such water can lead to stomach cancer, but these cases are much rarer than lung cancers resulting from airborne radon.