In the past couple of months we have discussed environmental hazards paranormal investigators should be aware of such as black mold and allergens. Today, I’d like to touch upon Radon.
What Is Radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. It forms naturally from the decay of radioactive elements, such as uranium, which are found at different levels in soil and rock throughout the world. Radon gas in the soil and rock can move into the air and into ground water and surface water. It is present outdoors, as well as indoors. It is normally found at very low levels in outdoor air and in drinking water from river and lakes. It can be found at higher levels in the air in houses and other buildings, as well as in water from underground sources, such as well water.
How Are People Exposed To Radon?
For both adults and children, most exposure comes from being indoors in homes, commercial buildings, schools and other places. The levels of radon in homes and other buildings depend on the characteristics of the rock and soil in the area. As a result, radon levels vary greatly in different parts of the United States, even within neighborhoods. Elevated radon levels have been found in every state.
Radon gas, given off by rock or soil, can enter buildings through cracks in floors or walls; construction joints; or gaps in foundations around pipes, wires or pumps. Levels are usually highest in the basement or crawl space due to these areas being closest to the soil or the rock that is the source of the radon. Therefore, people who spend much of their time in basement rooms have a greater risk for being exposed. Small amounts of radon can also be released from the water supply into the air, especially if the water source is underground. As the radon moves from the water to the air, it can be inhaled. Water that comes from deep, underground wells in rock may have higher levels, whereas, surface water (drawn from rivers or lakes) usually has very low levels of radon. For the most part, water does not contribute much to the overall exposure. Exposure can also occur from building materials if they are made from radon-containing substances. Almost any building material made from natural substances, including concrete and wallboard, may give off some level of radon. In most cases, these level are very low, but in a few instances these materials may contribute significantly to radon exposure.
Some granite countertops may expose people to different levels of radon. Most health and radiation experts agree that while a small portion of granite countertops may give off increased level of radon, most countertops give off extremely low levels.
Symptoms Of Radon Poisoning
You cannot see or smell radon gas, making it very difficult for people to even know they’ve been exposed. This radioactive gas causes damage to our cells deep within the lungs. Radon gas exposure has no early discernible symptoms. Long-term exposure can lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer, especially in smokers.
How To Avoid Radon Exposure
Radon is in the air we breath, both indoors and out, so it is not possible to avoid it completely. But there may be things you can do to lower your exposure.
For most people, the largest potential source of radon is in the home. You can check radon levels in your home to determine if steps are needed to lower them. Do-it-yourself radon kits can be ordered through the mail or bought in hardware or home supply stores. The kits are placed in the home for a period of time then mailed to a lab for analysis. The EPA recommends testing all homes below the 3rd floor, even new homes that were built “radon-resistant”. Another way is to hire a professional. Qualified contractors can be found on the EPA website.
It is very important for paranormal investigators to be aware of all environmental hazards when investigating. Happy, safe investigating!