The Health Care Provider's Guide to Radon
You can’t see it. You can't smell it. You can't taste it. Radon, a Class A carcinogen, is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and the largest source of everyday radiation exposure. It is colorless and odorless, so you don’t know you’re breathing it in. Radon and its decay products are inhaled into the lungs and irradiate the cells of the mucous membrane, bronchi and other pulmonary tissues. This damages the DNA and increases genetic mutations and the risk of developing lung cancer. In recent years, radon in indoor air has been estimated to have caused 14%1 of all lung cancers, contributing 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year.
Radon comes from the radioactive breakdown of naturally occurring radium found in most Florida soils. As a gas in the soil, it enters buildings through small openings in the foundation, plumbing/electrical penetrations, and construction joints of homes. Once radon seeps in, it becomes trapped and concentrated, then inhaled by the home’s residents. One in 15 homes across the U.S. has an elevated radon level. In Florida, one in five homes—in some areas it’s one in three. These elevated levels have been found in all types of Florida buildings, including old homes, new homes, manufactured homes, schools and high-rise condominiums. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends all homes be tested for radon. The only way to know the radon levels in your home is to test.
How can you help your patients? Inform them by adding a question about radon on your patient history form and open the conversation: "Have you tested your home for radon?" Encourage your patients to test their homes for radon and mitigate if high levels are found.
For more information and educational materials about radon, visit our website.
1 The Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation report (BEIR VI) (https://www.nap.edu/read/5499/chapter/2?term=14%25#17) estimates about 14% of total lung cancer deaths are radon induced