Tuesday, August 23rd by Tim Snyder
Exposure to radioactive radon gas, which emanates naturally from soil and rock in most parts of the world, has long been known to cause lung cancer. But more recent research, performed at the University of North Dakota, indicates that radon may be a significant cause of two diseases of the brain: Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The radon gas emitted from soil and rock is not a hazard in the open air. But radon gas can accumulate in dangerous concentrations in the interior of a building. Crawl space foundations with dirt floors are especially prone to high radon concentration, but this potentially lethal gas can also accumulate in a basement or above a concrete slab foundation. It migrates easily to other parts of the house, especially in downstairs rooms. Since radon gas is odorless, invisible and noncombustible, the only way to detect its presence is by using special testing devices.
From the lungs to the brain
The most immediate effect of inhaled radon gas is lung tissue being exposed to radioactive particles –a known cause of lung cancer. But after being inhaled into the lungs, radon gas enters the bloodstream. Research has shown that radioactive byproducts of radon gas tend to accumulate in brain tissue, where they can do additional damage. Lab technicians at the University of North Dakota discovered that radioactive radon concentrations in the brains of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients were (on average) 10 times greater than in the brains of persons with no Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease symptoms.
Given the findings above, it's not surprising that the geographic distribution of people who die from Parkinson's disease is higher in states with greater radon contamination potential. All of these statistics point to some very basic and affordable preventative measures: testing for radon and (if necessary) hiring a radon mitigation specialist to install a radon abatement system. Radon test kits are available from hardware stores, home centers and online sources. These low-priced kits (around $20 or so) will give reliable radon readings as long as the homeowner follows the manufacturer's directions to the letter. Alternatively, it's possible for a radon mitigation contractor to perform the radon test.
If radon levels are detected above or close to the EPA's maximum exposure threshold of 4 picocuries per liter, you'll want to install a radon abatement system to protect building occupants from potentially lethal exposure. The typical radon abatement system has a single moving part: the fan that pulls radon-rich air from the soil beneath the foundation floor and expels it outside where it dissipates into the air. When installed by an experienced radon specialist, such a system works effectively and reliably with minimum maintenance required. When you consider the statistics on radon's harmful effects, radon testing and mitigation definitely qualify as “no-brainers.”
About the Author: Contact the experts at National Radon Defense for more information about radon testing and radon fans. Want to test your home for radon before discussing any further options?
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