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Lung Health

Radon and Other Environmental Factors That Can Negatively Affect Lung Health

Vernessa Perry, MSPH, PMP

Senior Program Director of Health & Wellness, National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF)

Certain environmental factors such as exposure to toxic substances, poor air quality, and other environmental conditions can have major implications that affect lung health. For individuals with preexisting conditions, prolonged exposure to these elements can be debilitating, and even deadly. 

In some cases, your risk of developing severe health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, cancer, and respiratory disease can depend on things like the air and water quality where you live. For example, those with health-related problems such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may find their symptoms exacerbated by increased incidents of extreme temperatures and severe weather events due to climate change

One important environmental factor that often goes undetected in homes is accidental radon exposure. Radon is an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas produced when uranium in the soil decays. It can seep up from the ground and into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation. As radon gets trapped inside, it negatively affects your indoor air quality. In fact, the EPA estimates that one out of every 15 homes contains elevated radon levels.

While you cannot see, smell, or taste radon, it can be harmful — it is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the primary cause of lung cancer among non-smokers

The good news is that radon exposure, like most indoor air quality issues, is extremely preventable. Radon testing kits can be found at most neighborhood home improvement stores or through your state’s radon program. You can also locate a professional radon inspector in your area by contacting your state’s radon program.

By working to improve your local air and water quality, as well as preventing and controlling hazardous substances in our home, work, and communities, you can greatly reduce the risk of environmental-related illness and increase the health and safety of you and your family. 

For more information on the relationship between environmental health and human health, visit NEEFusa.org.

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