When most people think about silent, tasteless, odorless killers they immediately associate it with carbon monoxide poisoning. Unfortunately, that’s not the only substance that can have serious, and fatal consequences if left unattended. According to WTMJ-TV Milwaukee, elevated levels of radon have been discovered in “thousands” of homes in the Southeast-area of Wisconsin.
“The health risk in southeast Wisconsin for Radon is significant,” said Steven Todd, Hazardous Materials Coordinator for the Division of Environmental Health in Waukesha County. “You definitely want to know what your home Radon level is.”
While carbon monoxide may be the more infamous threat, radon is actually significantly more prevalent on a statistical scale. Approximately 430 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning annually. In comparison, radon kills about 21,000 people every year. That’s a pretty serious gap for two similar conditions.
Part of this problem is surely due to the nature in which these gases can seep into your home. While carbon monoxide is often a direct result of leaving something like a car running in a closed garage, radon results from Uranium in the soil that your home is built upon. If the soil shifts or is moved significantly, that’s when the radon can be released.
“There’s no question that Radon can cause lung cancer,” Todd said. “We’ve done plenty of research on that. There haven’t been any studies on why we have higher levels here.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office, they estimate as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon. It is believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., according to the Surgeon General.
Just how bad is it for Southeast Wisconsin? The national indoor average Radon radioactivity level in homes is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). In Southeast Wisconsin, average Radon levels for homes is currently 5.4 pCi/L, which is about four times the national average.
While there are no laws or regulations being developed to require testing, experts and local officials are urging residents to have their homes regularly checked for this silent killer, at least every couple of years.