A Silent Killer
Protect those you care about - urge them to test for radon

by Madison County Urban Center Staff

If you have tested your home for radon, you have taken the first step toward protecting your family from the health risks associated with radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer. Now, tell your friends about radon and encourage them to test their home. And while you're at it, tell your neighbors and your relatives too. It may save their lives!

Because testing for radon in Alabama is not regulated or legislated, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System's radon education program's goal is to reach as many Alabama citizens as possible with the radon message. The message is simple: test your home for radon and protect yourself and your family from exposure to a radioactive gas that can cause cancer.

"There are many who think that the radon issue isn't important," notes Sabrina Lyle, coordinator of the Madison County radon education program. "They don't realize the serious risk they are taking by ignoring this potential problem. Some Alabama residents are especially at risk for elevated levels of radon in their homes. Madison County's test results have shown that two out of every five homes has a radon problem."

Geological features, known as karst, make it easy for radon to find its way to the surface and into your home. Karst geology is limestone and shale in the bedrock layers under the soil that can be worn away over time by water to form caves, cracks and crevices in the earth.

Also present in parts of Alabama are heavy deposits of Uranium 238. As Uranium 238 decays, it becomes radon, a radioactive gas. As a gas, radon can move to the surface of the soil and into your living space. Radon penetrates your home through entry points such as openings around pipes, plumbing, drain openings, separations between the wall and floor, and cracks in the foundation. When you have karst geology and natural deposits of Uranium 238, you have what is called "the radon fast track." Radon can move rapidly and easily into your home and the air you and your family breathe.

What exactly is Radon? Radon is a Type A human carcinogen, which is demonstrated and known to cause cancer, is the most serious and deadly of carcinogens. Asbestos is also a Type A carcinogen, as is cigarette smoke. So if anyone thinks that radon isn't a serious health risk, tell that person the facts.

Another fact is that between 14,000 and 30,000 people die each year from radon-induced lung cancer. Radon is a serious problem in 15 counties in Alabama, including Jefferson, and Madison. The only way to know if you have a radon problem is to test. A short-term radon test can be purchased for $5 and a long-term alpha track test is $15 at select County Extension offices.

"This is a small price to pay to protect your family from radon. Tell a friend to test his or her home for radon today!" notes Ms. Lyle. "It could save lives."


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