Radon Gas No. 1 Cause Of Lung Cancer In Non-Smokers, Many Unaware

Oct. 17 Kicks Off Radon Awareness Week

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Story Updated: Oct 18, 2010

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - For non-smokers in Fort Wayne, avoiding second-hand smoke inhalation has been an achievable goal since the implementation of the city's tough anti-smoking ordinance. But this is not the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and many go unaware.

Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and one of the greatest causes of lung cancer among all people, second only to smoking itself.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared the week of Oct. 17-24 National Radon Awareness Week. The EPA predicts Radon is a problem in nearly 20 percent of American homes. In 2009 alone, there were 20,000 Radon-induced fatalities.

"It is very surprising ... we do check for everything else, but we've never been aware of radon before," explained a concerned Van Wert mother.

Radium and radon are potent human carcinogens and when inhaled, can cause lung cancer. Smokers exposed to radon are 10 to 12 times more likely to get lung cancer than are non-smokers similarly exposed.

But how are we exposed to the gas? Radon is a gas released from the decay of Radium which exists naturally in the soil, rocks and water beneath building structures. As Radon decays, it produces tiny particles that are just the right size to gain entry to our lungs as we breathe.

People in Fort Wayne on Sunday were surprised to hear about how dangerous radon can be.

"Well, it's kind of scary," said Fort Wayne resident Patty Smith. "How do we know where it comes from? How do we get rid of it?"

Others were not surprised.

"I had a friend who had lots of radon in their basement and they died of lung caner," explained Sally Ellison of Fort Wayne.

Radon can enter any building, no matter its age or building material. It enters when the air pressure inside the building is lower than the soil pressure surrounding it, which is often the case. This difference in air pressure causes the building to act like a vacuum, drawing Radon in through foundation cracks and other openings.

The greatest risk of Radon occurs at home and work, where we spend most of our time. Because doors and windows are more likely to be closed during winter, spring and fall, these are the most ideal seasons to test for its presence.

To seek out a trained professional to test a home or other building for Radon, check with the county or state health departments. In Indiana, you can check for licensed Radon Testing Professionals in your area online. The state of Ohio also provides a list of resources for consumers to contact.

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