The “risk of lung cancer in children from exposure to radon may be almost twice as high as the risk to adults exposed to the same amount of radon.”
CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Children have smaller lungs and faster breathing rates than adults which means they can inhale more radon gas. Children also have growing tissue and smaller bodies which makes them more affected by the radioactive radon they can breathe in their homes and schools. These facts (and more) were discussed in the video below with Dr. Aaron Goodarzi who is an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary’s Charbonneau Cancer Institute and the Co-founder of the Evict Radon National Study in Canada.
Long-term exposure to radon causes lung cancer. Therefore, when children are exposed to radon, they have a higher risk of developing lung cancer at a younger age – possibly in their late 20s or 30s. Dr. Goodarzi also says that children are more sensitive to radiation and radon because the relative dose is higher when exposed to their small bodies.
Young children can experience radon exposure in their homes, schools, and daycare centers. The only way to know if these places have radon present is to test.
Testing for radon in homes
Easy to use home radon detectors can be placed in your home for periods of 2-4 days up to one year. It is important that the detectors be deployed in correct areas in the home to get the most accurate reading. Place at least one detector in your most centrally lived in room on the lowest lived in level of your home. Basements and first floor living areas are both good rooms to test. You may also want to test other rooms where you spend 4-6 hours per day such as bedrooms or a home office. Kitchens and bathrooms are not good areas to test because of the moisture in these areas.
Testing for radon in schools
According to the EPA “one in five schools has at least one room with a short-term radon level above the action level of 4 picocuries per liter,” the level at which EPA recommends that schools take radon reduction measures. This equates to “more than 70,000 schoolrooms in use today that have high short-term radon levels.” Approximately 14 states require or recommend radon testing in public schools.
Measuring for radon in schools is more complex than a residence because of the factors that contribute to radon gas entering the building such as:
- Type of building construction.
- Type of HVAC system.
- Presence of basements, crawl spaces or utility tunnels.
- Presence of construction renovations or additions over the years.
The EPA recommends that all frequently occupied rooms and classrooms on and below the ground level be tested for radon. Radon levels can vary from room to room – even between neighboring classrooms.
Testing for radon in child care centers
Child care centers can be a significant source of radon exposure to young children. Preschool aged children spend time crawling, sitting, or sleeping on the floor where radon enters a house or building. Many home daycares are set up in a home basement where radon levels can be the highest.
All 50 states as well as many local governments have established health and safety standards for licensed child care providers. Testing for radon is part of a comprehensive home daycare safety program. With children spending 8 to 10 hours per day in home daycare, it is essential to make sure the air they breathe is safe (and for the daycare providers as well). Parents also need the assurance that their beloved family members are in a safe child care environment.
Radon reduction and mitigation
If radon levels in homes, schools, or child care centers are above the actionable limit of 4.0 piC/L in the U.S. or 200 Bq/m3 in Canada, then steps to reduce the radon levels must be taken. Ventilation in the house or building will need to be improved and/or a radon mitigation system will need to be installed. The EPA recommends a qualified radon service provider to perform this work.
In addition to cancer, radon can cause other respiratory illnesses in children such as asthma. To protect children from radon and the risk of lung cancer it is important to test facilities where children spend lots of time. If radon levels are high, take steps to reduce and mitigate the radon. Not only will this protect children, but it will protect their families, school teachers, and child care providers from the harmful effects of radon.
Radonova is the laboratory of choice for numerous government radon surveys, as well as other public, and private sector large-scale measurement contracts around the world. A truly global laboratory, Radonova is active in over 80 countries and has performed millions of measurements.