What are the effects of radon gas on humans?


Quick Answer

Inhalation of radon gas causes tens of thousands of lung cancer deaths around the world annually, reports the World Health Organization. Radon ranks only behind smoking as a major cause of lung cancer in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

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Full Answer

Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible radioactive gas created when elements like uranium, radium and thorium decompose underground, states the National Cancer Institute. Outdoors, it is too diffuse to be harmful, but when it seeps into buildings through cracks in the foundations and walls, concentrations of radon gas build up, especially in lower levels. When people inhale the gas, radioactive particles attack tissue lining the lungs. Cigarette smoking exacerbates the risk of lung cancer death after radon exposure, but radon gas is also the leading cause of lung cancer affecting non-smokers, as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Testing the atmosphere in homes, schools and commercial buildings is the only way to detect dangerous levels of radon, according to the EPA. Tests are performed through do-it-yourself home kits or by trained contractors. One of the most effective methods of reducing radon methods in buildings is soil suction, which involves installing one or more pipes beneath the foundation that vent radon away from the building's interior. This is often accompanied by the sealing of cracks through which radon can flow into the building.

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