Radon is an invisible, odorless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the soil and can seep into a home through the walls, basement floor, and other openings. When radon is trapped indoors, it can accumulate to dangerously high levels. So dangerous, that radon is a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking. Exposure to radon kills 21,000 Americans each year.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Ashtabula County has a moderate risk for radon exposure. Previous tests in show that Ashtabula County has a higher concentration of radon than the national average, with higher levels being found in the northeast corner of the county.
Ashtabula County Medical Center Family Medicine provider Elaina Williams, DO, who sees patients daily at Conneaut Family Health Center, said exposure to radon is preventable. Testing the air quality in our homes is one way to reduce your risk of exposure.
“It’s important to remember that we can’t see, smell, or taste radon. The only way you know the level in your home is to test it,” she said. “And, testing it once is not enough. The radon level in your home can change from year-to-year. Changes in landscaping, gardening, and other improvements to your house can all have an effect on radon levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you test your home every few years or as soon as you complete a new home improvement project.”
Regular testing is also important because symptoms of radon poisoning do not always show up immediately. “Most people won’t experience symptoms for years. When they finally do experience symptoms, they are advanced and reveal the early stages of lung cancer,” Dr. Williams said.
The most common symptoms for radon poisoning and lung cancer are:
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Frequent bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent cough or wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
If you suspect you have lung damage due to radon gas exposure, make an appointment with your provider and ask for a referral to a pulmonologist. These physicians specialize in diagnosis and treatment of a variety of lung health issues.
“When we refer to a pulmonologist, they may perform a low-dose CT scan to see inside the lungs. The scan is also helpful for evaluating other health conditions such as pneumonia, blood clots, or damage caused by smoking, which helps both of us coordinate a treatment plan for the lung problems unique to that patient,” Dr. Williams said.
If lung cancer is diagnosed, your pulmonologist will also work with a cancer specialist to offer treatment options. As with any disease, early detection gives you more options for treatment.
To schedule an appointment with an ACMC family medicine provider or pulmonologist, call 440-997-6969.