Radon has been found in every county in California. Public awareness of Radon in California appears to be lagging behind the rest of the country. This is possibly due to the misconception that you need to live back east or your building needs to have a basement to develop radon air quality problems. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the United States and urges all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools and other buildings for radon. Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. According to EPA estimates, exposure to radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, more than drunk driving, household falls, drowning, or home fires. The greater the amount of radon and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer.
Radon comes from the radioactive breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soil, rock and water and enters buildings as a gas. Uranium in soil and bedrock is found almost everywhere and is based on the geologic conditions beneath buildings. The principal threat to health occurs as the radon gas decays and throws off atoms of heavy metals, called alpha particles or radon daughters. The radon daughters stick to particles of dust, are inhaled and lodge in the lungs, where they emit cell-damaging radiation. Because of slight differences between air pressure inside buildings and outdoors, often due to forced heating and cooling, radon can be drawn into any building by entering through cracks in concrete slab foundations, openings around plumbing and elsewhere.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month is November and correlates with the beginning of the colder winter months which is the best time to test for radon. Testing for radon is a relatively simple and mitigation, if needed, can be critical for indoor air quality. Public and private schools are beginning to be aware of this harmful substance and the Los Angeles School District is leading the charge to combat radon exposure to children in schools. Currently, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends that you take action to reduce radon levels if the annual average indoor air concentration exceeds 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). However, the World Health Organization recommends 2.7 piC/L.
Visit this interactive map to see where you live and work and you maybe shocked (like the author) on what you find. http://maps.conservation.ca.gov/cgs/radon/
For more information on radon testing and mitigation contact David Schack, Vice President of Building Sciences at David.Schack@altaenviron.com or 800-777-0605.