Why Does Radon Cause Cancer?

All radioactive elements break down over time. Each time an element breaks down, it explodes with energy, radioactive energy strong enough to form a small crater on glass when observed through a microscope. If these explosions occur within the human body, for example while breathing, the radiation can be deposited on a cell. This in turn, causes cells to mutate and multiply and cancer begins to spread. The more cells that are exposed to radiation, the greater the risk of cell mutation. Children’s cells are still growing and changing rapidly so they are at the greatest risk as well as anyone who spends a great deal of time at home. Because it doesn’t cause headaches, nausea or other feelings of ill health, most people won’t know they have cancer until they hear it from their doctor. The only way to know if your family is being exposed is to test.

Radon is measured in pico-Curies per liter of air (pCi/L). It is used as a measure for the number of radioactive explosions that occur within 1 liter of air every 60 seconds. The letter “C” is always capitalized when using the abbreviation pCi/L to honor Madame Curie, who discovered radium. Unfortunately, she never realized the seriousness of radiation and died as a direct result of her exposure to radiation during her research work.

1 pCi/L equals 2.2 radioactive explosions every minute in every liter of air. That doesn’t sound like much until you consider the amount of air within a house. For example, a 1,000 square foot home with 4 pCi/L will have about 2 million explosions occurring in that house every single minute of every day. Radon test kits simply tell us how many radioactive explosions are occurring in our home every minute of every hour of every day.

If you live in a home for 1 year that has exactly 4.0 pCi/L, your radiation exposure is the same as 200 chest x-rays per year! X-ray technicians wear lead aprons and stand as far away as possible. You need to protect yourself and your loved ones as well.

The following are a couple of personal testimonials posted on the CanSar (Cancer Survivors Against Radon) website www.cansar.org:

Monica Pryor - 2008 Taylor, SCC

I am a 37-year old wife, mother of three children, Meghan, 8; Jason, 6; and my baby, Joshua, 17 months, and I am a believer. I have been diagnosed with incurable, Stage IV, adema carcinoma--lung cancer.

My surgeon said that the cancer either came from smoking, asbestos, chemicals, or radon. Since the first two are not possible, most likely it is radon-induced lung cancer. Our indoor radon measured at 7.2 pCi/L, so our "family" at North Hills Church enabled us to get the house mitigated. The level is now 0.7 pCi/L.

This strange journey began with four months of having severe headaches and pneumonia-like symptoms, and finally a visit to the doctor. After many tests, my doctor discovered that my right lung was blanketed with tumors called adema-carcinoma lung cancer. I started chemotherapy almost immediately. Nausea, headaches, mouth sores and infections gave way to a little pity party for myself, but God gave me the strength to face my tomorrows and my fears.

I have been on the most intensive medication and chemotherapy regime possible. I am finding that this struggle is as much an emotional and mental fight as it is a physical one; however, the physical suffering is terrible. The cancer has spread to my liver and bones through my lymph system. There is much pain and many problems I work through on a daily basis to be able to "live".

I try to have lots of snuggle time with my children. It is such a treat to just sit and watch them, hear them laugh and hold and pray with them. One of my prayer warriors told me "God is still a God of miracles." I am in good physical condition even though not much energy. I go to church every Sunday, out with my girlfriends a few times a week and have a date night once a week with my husband.

My pastor said one Sunday morning, "This storm was designed for me" which struck a cord with me. This is not a random or accidental case of cancer. It never ceases to amaze me that God knows the right person to put in your path at the right time. God is not finished with me yet. I am confident that educating others about radon is one of my missions.

Ravi Zacharias asks, "Are our lives just random and meaningless strands of thread, or could they possibly be precise designs woven with remarkable care, thought, and intent?" On my special journey there have been many threads woven into my life by the Grand Weaver.

(Monica passed away October 27, 2008)

Joe Linnertz Waterloo, IL

On Nov. 2, 2005, my husband, Joe had a blood test that showed his liver enzymes were elevated. After more tests on Dec 27, we found that he had lung cancer that had spread to his liver and bones. We asked the doctor what causes lung cancer and he said smoking and radon gas. We didn’t know what radon was and Joe hadn’t smoked for 27 years. Joe died on February 8, 2006

I checked the Internet and saw I could buy a radon test kit at the hardware store. Our home tested 11.2 pCi/L, and we have lived in this house for 18 years. The house has now been mitigated and tests at 1.1 pCi/L.

If we had just known about this silent killer and if someone had told us of its deadly power and how easy it is to test and mitigate, we would have done it. Only a test can determine if you are living in a high level radon environment, and often only a test can determine if you are living with early stage cancer.

Joe was a gentle, brave, faithful and courageous man and decided he didn't want the chemotherapy and would let God take him when he was ready. Joe was my light and my strength.

About 2 or 3 weeks after Joe died, I prayed to God to give me a purpose for my life. I got my answer very quickly. I will dedicate the rest of my life to radon reform and education.

...Gloria Linnertz

Sue Michael - 2005 New Castle, PA

I was at greater risk for radon exposure because I was a stay at home mom for 25 years. My husband Bob and I didn’t want latch key kids, we wanted me there when the kids came home, to greet them and to say hello, how was your day? We discovered after it was too late, we’d been living in a radon concentration of 6.8 pCi/l. We’ve never smoked.

When I went to the oncologist (in May 2003), I knew that it was in the lungs, the liver and some of the lymph nodes. And then I found out it was also in the bones in three different places. When the doctor told us it was 8-10 months, my oldest daughter said at least I’d be here for Christmas.

(Sue passed away in September 2005).