The Effects of Long-Term Radon Exposure

The Dangers of Radon

Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that naturally occurs from the breakdown of radioactive metals. It typically dissipates into the atmosphere when emitted outdoors, however, it can be harmful in certain enclosed environments.

When radon is released into enclosed spaces, it becomes dangerous. Being in any type of building allows the radon concentration to build up and contaminate the surrounding air. It’s especially dangerous when it enters your home.

High concentrations of radon pose a risk of developing health issues. But how much exposure is an issue? There is short-term and long-term exposure. Only one of which has a true impact on those exposed.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Radon Exposure

Exposure to radon can cause adverse effects depending on the level of exposure. Short-term exposure has been shown to be relatively harmless—showing no risk of causing health issues.

Long-term radon exposure is a different story. To be more specific, long-term radon exposure is considered to be at least 20 years or more of repeated exposure. After this many years of exposure, one can reasonably see negative health effects starting to take place such as shortness of breath, coughing or other issues such as headaches or fever.

How Does Long-Term Radon Exposure Affect People?

If you are exposed to radon repeatedly for 20 years or more, you are at a higher risk of developing serious health complications. The most common and notable is lung cancer.

Since radon is a radioactive gas, breathing it in over time can have a direct impact on your lungs. Those who have been exposed long-term may start to exhibit lung cancer symptoms such as:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Cough that won’t go away
  • Shoulder, back or chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Face and neck swelling
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Weight loss

The risk of radon-related lung cancer can also be increased if you are a smoker or have been in the past.

Reducing Your Risks from Radon

If you suspect your area may have high radon concentrations or live in a state with a high concentration like Virginia, protecting yourself from radon’s negative health effects is crucial.

Since it occurs naturally, it’s harder to mitigate completely. That’s why strategies are used to help decrease the amount of exposure.

Here are some procedures that can help reduce your risk of radon-related health problems:

  • Increase airflow in your home or buildings by opening windows and running interior fans for temporary relief
  • Seal cracks in your floors, walls or foundation to minimize the amount of radon that can leak into your home or buildings
  • For smokers, attempt to reduce your smoke inhalation or quit smoking altogether
  • For nonsmokers with family, friends or employees who do smoke, do not let them smoke in your home or buildings as you can increase your own respiratory risk in addition to long-term radon exposure

These will help you reduce the harm to your family at home or employees in your buildings. However, the best way to reduce your risk is to test ahead of time so you can not only reduce but also work to mitigate radon exposure as much as possible by fixing your home or buildings.

Test for Radon to Be Safe

Concerned about radon levels in your home, facility or workplace? Whether you’re just moving into a space or have been there for a while, it’s best to test for it before it’s too late. Testing for radon can be done to match your availability in the short-term and long-term.

EHS offers a short-term test that can be used to sample the air quality in your home and then be sent to our labs for testing.

Contact us today to keep yourself and others safe.