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Radon is a natural radioactive gaseous emission from the decay of radium in uranium, which is present in rocks, soil, and water. Radon can seep into homes and buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation. It can then collect in open spaces such as basements and lower floors and increase in concentration. Significant amounts of radon have also been detected in the water in certain wells.
There is strong evidence of a clear link between breathing high concentrations of radon gas and the incidence of lung cancer. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking. Radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States.
An aspect of radon gas that makes it particularly insidious is that it is colorless and odorless, making it undetectable without a specialized test. Test kits for home detection of radon are inexpensive and readily available, but should be Department of Environmental Protection or DEP certified. As part of the test, ambient samples are sent to a laboratory where they are analyzed, usually for a small fee.
Radon testers are also available to perform such tests. Homeowners should ensure, however, that testers they hire meet DEP standards.
If test results reveal unacceptable levels of radon, the amount of radon must be “mitigated” (decreased). Radon mitigation should be done only by a professional, state certified contractor. If the state has no radon regulation, the contractor should have proper radon mitigation credentials.
Contact a physician if you or a loved one is experiencing respiratory problems you suspect may be due to radon poisoning. You should also consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you determine who may be responsible for the radon exposure. You may be entitled to compensation.