There’s been a bit of a myth being tossed around about a frog’s reaction to the gradual increase of heat. Some claim that if a frog is placed in warm water that the frog will not attempt to escape even as the water begins to boil-thus, the frog dies. Others say that the frog will not sit still long enough for the water to boil, or that the frog would absolutely notice the change and try to escape.
However, the scenario has been likened to snake rescue, where one expert has said that a snake will rest on a “hot rock” even if the rock becomes extraordinarily hot and eventually kills the snake. Let’s assume this perspective is correct and that some reptiles don’t respond or even recognize an obvious and deadly change in their environment. Does it suffice to say that we as humans may sometimes be unaware of the hazards that slowly develop within the very comforts of our own homes? Some would say, yes.
Many people have died as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, which has been known to increase over time without an individual even noticing. This is why many states have requirements for carbon monoxide detectors. Radon poisoning can and does have the same ill-fated effects as carbon monoxide poisoning and the reptile stories mentioned above.
Radon is the result of soil’s uranium decay. As this process occurs, polonium is released and this creates radon’s toxicity. Unfortunately, radon commonly goes unnoticed, not because of ignorance but because of the gas’ translucence and ability to go under the human radar.
It is invisible. It has no taste, form or scent. So, it’s not all that uncommon for a person to unknowingly live in a home with extraordinarily high levels of radon. Although radon is quite frightening to discuss, it’s very real and more importantly-it’s easy to fix!
Let’s learn more about the effects of overexposure to radon gas and then we’ll discuss the testing and radon mitigation resources that are available in Virginia.
By now, the harmful effects of cigarette smoke is no hidden secret, but for many years smoking was part of relaxation and for some, a past time. Smoking cigarettes and living in a home with radon gas has one thing in common- lung cancer.
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. However, radon takes the lead as the leading cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers. By the simple process of elimination, radon is a killer and just as cigarettes have gotten away with murder, radon is still getting away with over 20 thousand deaths a year in the U.S. alone-according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has documented about 15 percent of the world’s lung cancer cases as being caused by radon poisoning.
Low Radon Levels Are Still Dangerous
It’s easy to think that the worst thing possible could never happen to you; in fact that’s optimism at its best. However, when radon is involved in the equation, optimism can coexist with being proactive and safe. Even if a home has somewhat low, or what is considered to be low risk levels of radon, it’s still a good idea to call a professional to mitigate and get the levels as low as possible.
“We know that radon is a carcinogen. This research confirms that breathing low levels of radon can lead to lung cancer,” said Tom Kelly, the director of the EPA’s Indoor Environments Division.
“Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people’s homes. Radon is the second most important cause of lung cancer after smoking in many countries,” said Dr. Maria Neira of the WHO.
Radon Levels in Virginia
According to the studies performed by Air Chek, Inc., the national average of radon levels in the U.S. is 1.3 pCi/L (Picocuries) and potentially more than 70 percent of the counties in Virginia maintain a level of radon even higher than 1.3.
Although the EPA has defined 4.0 pCi/L as the “requires action” level, many organizations including the WHO have found that even low levels of radon can be problematic, as we’ve already learned.
Virginia, like West Virginia, has many counties harboring very high levels of radon. However, Virginia is looking a bit better than West Virginia that only has six of the 50 counties with a minimal risk of radon. Meanwhile, Virginia has just below 50 percent of the counties in danger and about a quarter of the excess counties in moderate danger.
Though shocking and even a little scary, these numbers don’t define your home’s levels. In fact, you could have low levels of radon. But, regardless of the level, you want to know your family is safe. The best way to do that is to have your home tested for radon and to be sure to have annual checkups to be sure your mitigation system is working efficiently. As the earth’s soil changes, climate and your home changes, the radon levels can also adjust either by increasing or decreasing over time. That’s why it’s important to work with an expert in minimizing the radon levels in your home.
The EPA has defined three defining zones for radon levels: high, moderate and minimal concern. It appears that the southeast counties of Virginia have maintained a minimal risk as the rest of the state varies between high and moderate concern.
Here are three examples of Virginia counties with different levels of radon.
Southampton County is considered to be at low risk with 11% high concern, 21% moderate and 69% low.
Wise County is considered moderate risk with 38% high, 18% moderate and 52% low.
Lee County is considered at high risk with 41% high, 15% moderate and 44% low.
Although these all have different overall averages, each county has a percent of homes with high radon levels. This means that all homeowners regardless of the county should have their home checked for radon. What are your levels?
Your home’s radon levels can be lessened and you can be saved from the radon toxicity by contacting your local radon mitigation expert.