Lansing, MI -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has once again designated January as National Radon Action Month. The EPA reports that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in the United States and claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that radon causes between 6% and 15% of lung cancers worldwide.
Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that has been found in buildings across the globe. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air people breathe. Exposure to elevated levels of radon over time may increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.
Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into buildings through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can even enter a building through well water. While exposure to radon in the home is for many their main exposure route, the work environment is also a concern for many employees. The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) lists a number of occupations where workers could be at increased risk of radon exposure. They range from miners, excavators and water treatment operators to workers involved with oil refineries, utilities and subway tunnels to name a few.
“Most people spend a significant portion of the lives working and many could be exposed to elevated levels of radon in the work environment,” said David Roskelley, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “Just as a home can have high levels of radon, so too can a school, office, manufacturing facility or various jobsites. Both the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General have urged all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools and other buildings for radon. The only way to know if radon is present at elevated levels is to test for it.”
Certified Industrial Hygienists are well versed in health risk analysis, hazard communication, engineering controls and ventilation, and air sampling and instrumentational analysis to identify, prevent and respond to radon issues in occupational environments. Their knowledge of radiation also affords them the ability to anticipate, recognize, evaluate and control radon exposure risks.