A Significant Cancer Risk May Be Hiding in Your Home
January 7, 2019
No matter how clean your home is, it might be hiding a dirty secret: a gas that is a leading cause of lung cancer (second only to smoking) in Indiana and the U.S. This gas, called radon, occurs naturally when the chemical uranium breaks down in dirt and rock. It then seeps up into your home through tiny holes and cracks in the foundation and gets trapped inside.
Whether your house is new or old, on a slab or on a basement, you could be at risk. The crucial factor is whether there are ways for radon gas to get in, as well as ways for it to get out so it doesn’t build up. That’s why two houses on the same street might have completely different radon risk levels.
That being said, your risk is elevated if you live in Clark County. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average home in our county contains more than 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) of radon. That might not sound like much, but it’s enough to double or even triple your risk of lung cancer.
You can’t see, smell, taste or hear radon — so the only way to know for sure is to test for it. The state maintains a list of testing companies here: https://www.in.gov/isdh/24346.htm.
Or, if you don’t want to hire a company to test for radon, many inexpensive at-home testing kits are available too. The at-home test kit is easy to use. You simply place a small device in a livable part of your home (no need to wedge yourself into a crawlspace) and then send it in to a lab after it’s had enough time to collect data. Within weeks, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing whether your home has unsafe radon levels.
If you do have unsafe radon levels in your home, a contractor who is trained in radon mitigation can make one of both of these changes:
- Seal the cracks or holes where radon gets in
- Install some way for radon to get out, such as a vent pipe
The cost to install a radon mitigation system varies. But when you consider the cost of lung cancer treatment, it’s a bargain.
An at-home radon test kit costs about $30. However, during the month of January you can be entered to win a radon test kit when you schedule a lung cancer screening at Clark Memorial Hospital.
Our lung cancer screening uses a painless, low-dose CT scan to identify whether there are any suspicious spots on the lungs. The scan usually takes less than one minute and can be done at the main hospital or at Hunters Station in Sellersburg.
Even if you have never smoked, a lung cancer screening may be a good idea if you have warning signs such as:
- A cough that gets worse or doesn’t go away
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
- Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Shortness of breath
- New onset of wheezing
- Constant feeling of being very tired
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss without a known cause
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back