Most people know smoking is a major cause of lung cancer, but many may not realize there's another silent danger in their own homes. It's estimated exposure to radon is linked to 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
According to a map from the Environmental Protection Agency, most of Pennsylvania including much of our region has the highest potential for unsafe levels of radon gas.
Radon Mitigator Jim Andrews explains, " in the old Appalachian Mountains that are all busted, up the rock underneath unfolded and worn down and of course you have limestone which is very porous, so what happens is when radon is warm it very quickly comes up into the houses."
And as pulmonologist Dr. Michael Zupklo adds, "the fact of radon being a known carcinogen is not a debatalbe fact, that is well accepted.
Dr. Zlupko says the odorless gas increases the risk of lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. "In never smokers," Dr. Zlupko says, "when you see a lung cancer, you do have to ask yourself, well why, and could radon be responsible, Yes, that is possible."
The EPA recommends that all homes be tested for radon gas, measured in units called picocuries. The agency says homeowners need to take action if the reading is at or above four picocuries .
Andrews says, "100 picocures would be like a 2 year old child smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day being exposed to that."
And the radon mitigator says he's seen up to 400 picocurie readings in some area homes. His company "the Radon Guys" installs radon systems to keep the gas from entering the home.Instead it's drawn into pipes and vented to the outside.
He says all you have to do then to protect your family from radon is to change the fan every 15 to 25 years.
Scientists estimate that getting radon levels in homes down to safe levels could prevent 5,000 lung cancer deaths every year.