Reducing Risk, Protecting People

Radon Awareness Week: Preventing Lung Cancer

Posted by Clarion Safety Systems | 25th Jan 2022

Radon is estimated to cause around 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States every year and is the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can get trapped in homes and buildings and expose the people who live and work inside, increasing their risk of developing lung cancer later in life.

The good news is that exposures to high levels of radon are preventable. That’s why the CDC’s 2022 Radon Awareness Week was started: to raise awareness about the risks and encourage prevention. Observed on January 24 to 28, the awareness events throughout the week include:

Monday: Learning about what radon is and fact sharing about how to test radon levels.

Tuesday: How to lower radon risks in workplaces and homes through building and ventilation practices.

Wednesday: How to explore data and resources by state and lab resources from already tested regions.

Thursday: How to lower radon exposure in schools and understanding ANSI/AARST standards.

Friday: Alerting healthcare providers and educating them on screening their patients for potential radon exposure.

Understanding Where Radon Comes From
Radon can be present in soil, groundwater, and bedrock, and it can seep into workplaces and homes through construction joints, gaps around service pipes, cavities, and cracks inside walls, gaps in suspended floors, private wells and groundwater supplies, cracks in solid floors. This is more likely in public water supplies than private ones.

When someone breathes in radon, radioactive particles from the decay of radon gas can get trapped in the lungs. It takes many years for lung cancer to develop. Most people don’t have symptoms until lung cancer is advanced and at that point it’s harder to treat. For these reasons, it’s important to take steps to reduce radon exposure throughout one’s life to help prevent lung cancer.

Factors that increase someone’s risk of getting lung cancer from radon include the following:

  • High radon levels in a home or another building/worksite that one regularly spends time in.
  • High radon levels in the part of the home or building where people spend the most time (Radon levels are often higher in basements and lower levels.)
  • Smoking cigarettes, currently or in the past, along with secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Burning wood, coal, or other substances that add particles to air regularly.

Awareness is Prevention
Employers and workers should always take steps to minimize exposure to radon, including following OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (29 CFR 1910.120) and Ionizing Radiation (29 CFR 1910.1096 and 29 CFR 1926.53) standards.

Stay informed about radon levels in the geographic area where a worksite is located. In areas known to have homes with elevated radon levels, a construction company should work with the homeowner to obtain a radon test that may provide useful information to both the resident and individuals working at the home. Employers should ensure that workers are not exposed to working environments with high radon levels. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has an exposure limit for adult workers at 30 pCi/L averaged over a one-year period. Air monitoring can help warn employers and workers about elevated radon levels in a work area, including homes and other residential buildings where they may be performing rehabilitation and rebuilding work.

In work areas with elevated radon levels worker protection involves engineering controls, administrative practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Engineering Controls for Radon

  • In buildings with elevated radon levels, it may be possible to work with the building manager/owner to agree to install a radon remediation system.
  • Seal cracks in floors and walls with plaster, caulk, or other mate­rials designed for this purpose.
  • Cover the earth floor in crawl spaces with a high-density plastic sheet. A vent pipe and fan can be used to blow the radon from under the sheet and vent it to the outdoors

Administrative Controls for Radon

  • Open windows and doors to buildings to ventilate the structure. Ensuring that working areas receive plenty of fresh air may help disperse radon gas from the working environment.
  • Open windows and doors to buildings to ventilate the structure. Ensuring that working areas receive plenty of fresh air may help disperse radon gas from the working environment.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke in work areas. Try to also minimize burning materials on site.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Radon

  • A particulate-filtering respirator can help reduce inhalation of radon and other radioactive particles that have collected on airborne dust particles in the working environment.

In many instances, the PPE used to protect workers from other indoor environmental pollutants is sufficient to control any exposures to radon, especially when those pollutants are also of concern due to inhalation exposure. Workers who are adequately protected from airborne asbestos or silica dust, for example, are likely to be protected from inhaling radioactive particles. Always test radon levels again after you’ve made any of these changes to ensure these actions reduced the levels present.

Your Partner in Safety Compliance
At Clarion Safety, we take pride in being a safety authority in areas that concern not only product engineers and manufacturers, but workplace safety professionals as well. Browse our collections of radiation and health hazard signs and labels to increase safety and decrease liability. If you have questions related to equipment or workplace safety and risk mitigation, contact our team of experts today!

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