Radon gas is a mysterious substance which appears to be all around us, all the time but it is colourless, odourless, tasteless and radioactive. It is produced in the radioactive decay of radium-226 which is found in rocks such as granite and limestone to a lesser extent. It is in the soil above the rocks in varying amounts depending on where you live, from where it leaches into the airmosphere. In the open air its radioactivity varies from one to 200 Bq per square metre. One Becquerel is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second (if that interest you!).
Radon can increase the chance of lung cancer
I won’t make this too technical because I know it can turn people off. The purpose of the article is to say that a study published on the National Library of Medicine (and American website) found that “exposure to household radon might play a role in development of primary pulmonary neoplasia (PPN) (‘Ecological level analysis of primary lung tumors in dogs and cats and environmental radon activity’). This is a lung tumour, a cancerous growth. They found that the rate of incidence of these growths in cats and dogs was higher in counties of the US with a high radon exposure risk defined as zone 1 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compared to zones 2 and 3. Zone 3 is a low radon exposure risk. Radon causes lung cancer by damaging the DNA of the tissue in the lungs when it is inhaled. The EPA recommended safe level as I understand it is below 4 pCi/L. This is a measurement of the speed of decay radon. I told you it was technical!
Being aware of it
I think it’s quite useful because, obviously, radon can affect the health of people as well and ther companion animals. People should be informed about its presence as you can’t see it or smell it or even know that it is there unless you’re told. Some people might be concerned about it.
A website, National Radon Defence, say that it’s important to test for radon gas even if you live in a moderate or low risk area. They do radon testing and promote the idea of getting your home tested which is why they recommend it but it may interest some people. Radon levels will be higher in poorly ventilated houses.
Another website tells me that any amount of radon gas in your home is a health risk. A person living in a house with a radon level of 4.0 pCi/L or lower has about a 7 in 1000 chance of getting sick. If the level is at 20 pCi/L the chance of getting sick goes up to 36 in 1000. The World Health Organisation appear to say that you should take steps if the level is 2.7 pCi/L.
This a map available online showing the concentration levels of radon gas in the US. Although the levels vary within these designated areas.
Are you aware of radon?
I would expect that very, very few people take steps to deal with radon gas in their home. I would also expect that very few people actually have heard of it or if they have they ignore it because it’s odourless, colourless and invisible and they don’t care. I get that. It is, though, a hazard in the home for companion animals and of course ourselves, of which people should be aware as it adds to other household hazards such as chemicals in carpets and furniture to protect them.
P.S. I have focused on the US for convenience but this problem concerns any country. You’ll find answers for your country quite quickly online.