Radon is a gas that you cannot smell, taste or see. It forms naturally when uranium, radium and thorium break down in rocks, soil and groundwater. People can be exposed to radon primarily from breathing radon in air that comes in through cracks and gaps in homes and other buildings. Radon can cause lung cancer through prolonged exposure. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking, and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, causing between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
The entire state of Kentucky is at high risk for radon exposure with about 40 percent of homes estimated to have unsafe levels. The only way to know if radon exists at dangerous levels in your home is to test for it.
“People can’t see or smell radon so they may not know that it can exist at dangerous levels in their homes and be exposing them to deadly health effects,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and the city’s chief health strategist. “We encourage people to take advantage of the free test kits to test their homes for radon.”
The lung cancer risk factors of tobacco smoke and radon are related. More radon-related lung cancers occur in individuals with a history of exposure to tobacco smoke. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with the highest mortality rate of any cancer. Kentucky has the highest incidence rate of lung cancer in the nation with a rate of 93.4 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 59.4. According to the recently released 2017 Health Equity Report, cancer is the leading cause of death in Louisville.
The death rate from lung cancer in Kentucky is 69.5 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 43.4. In Louisville our lung cancer incidence and mortality rates are also well above the national average. According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry the incidence rate of lung cancer in Louisville is 94.8 per 100,000 compared to 59.4 nationally. The death rate is 61.7 compared to 43.4 nationally.
Here are a few tips to help prevent radon in your home:
Mitigation costs generally range from $1,200 to $2,500 depending on the size and foundation of the home. Consult the Kentucky Association of Radon Professionals or the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists National Radon Proficiency Program to locate approved contractors near you.