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Guest Column: Radon: Is your home raising your lung cancer risk?

November 27, 2013

By Harold P. Wimmer
American Lung Association National President and CEO

Mention radon to most people, and you’ll get a blank stare. But mention lung cancer, and you’ve got their attention!

Most people don’t know that exposure to radon, an invisible odorless gas, is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Illinois is recognized as having a very high risk of radon, so we at the American Lung Association want you to know how to protect your family.

A simple test in your home can tell you if you need to take steps to reduce the risk to yourself and your family. November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, is a perfect time to learn more and test your home.

Radon, a radioactive gas from the soil and rock beneath many homes, keeps itself well hidden. You can’t see it, smell it or taste it, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are radon-related.

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, but anytime is the right time to find out if radon is a health threat in your home. Radon can build up in any house — old or new — and performing a radon test is the only way to find out if your home has unsafe levels. Homeowners can use do-it-yourself radon testing kits. To find out where to buy a kit, call 1-800-SOS RADON (1-800-767-7236), or visit the EPA website www.epa.gov/radon.

If you have high levels of radon, mitigation systems can be installed that effectively pull radon out of your home. If you’re building a new home, consider installing a simple, inexpensive ventilation system that can protect your family from radon gas.

The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced they will require testing for radon in any multi-family housing that receives HUD financing or refinancing. If high levels of radon are found, HUD will require that the building be repaired to reduce indoor radon levels. This is great news that will protect thousands from deadly radon exposure.

But more needs to be done. The Lung Association is working to make sure all homes get tested, and those that have high levels get fixed. We are working to make sure that new homes are built with these low-cost radon protection systems in place. Because we know all too well the cancer radon causes.

Posted Nov. 27, 2013

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