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Radon is a radioactive gas formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil and water. Low levels of uranium occur widely in the earth's crust and some areas have more than others.
The Surgeon General in the USA has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is a 'serious public health problem'
Radon itself is colourless, tasteless, odourless and chemically inert. Unless you test for it, you'd never now it was there. Once produced by the uranium, it bubbles up through the ground in the air above.
The problem comes if you are in a higher-than-average area. Radon accumulates inside homes, building up to high levels that are not easily dispersed. Electrically charged atoms from the radon attach themselves to dust particles, which can be inhaled. Inside your lungs the decaying particles produce radiation, which has the potential to damage lung tissue.
Radon and Lung Cancer
The Surgeon General in the USA has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is a "serious public health problem". (National Academy of Sciences). It is estimated that 40,000 cases of lung cancer are caused each year in the USA by radon. Problem areas in the UK include Wales and the South West, but there are pockets in the Midlands, North of Manchester and North East of Edinburgh.
There is also evidence of a synergistic effect between radon and smoking, which increases risk by 55%. (National Safety Council, Washington).
If you are worried about lung cancer, get your home checked. Call the National Radiological Protection Board (0800 614529 or visit www.hpa.org.uk/radiation).