You don't only get lung cancer from smoking - the ground under your house can also lead to the disease. Radon can be found in almost all soil types, and the gas causes around 1500 deaths a year in the Netherlands and Belgium.
You cannot smell or taste radon, but this gas still poses a serious health risk. For example, it can cause lung cancer. Healthcare suspects that around 1500 people die each year in the Netherlands and Belgium; 800 in the Netherlands and 700 in Belgium.
American health care thinks that 21,000 Americans die each year from radon-caused lung cancer.
Radon invades heated houses
Radon occurs naturally in almost all soil types. The gas can penetrate through all kinds of channels, such as drain pipes or cracks in the foundation of a house. The risk is even greater at our northern latitudes than in the south, because we have to heat our houses for a larger part of the year. And if it is warmer inside than outside, there is a slight underpressure in your house, which sucks in the gas.
More radon in Belgium
Dutch soil naturally does not contain much radon, but the soil in Belgium does. The risk of radon poisoning is particularly high in the Ardennes.
Yet it is not about large numbers of poisons per year. And more radon is released from building materials than from the soil. For that reason it is important to regularly air the house.
Radon in the soil makes us sick
That radon from the soil can be a pathogen is shown by research from a new branch of science: medical geology. Scientists in this area are interested in the relationship between the soil conditions of a certain place and public health there.
Medical geology is on the rise, and researchers all over the world have been able to explain several major epidemics due to soil conditions. It turned out that a debilitating bone disease, fluorosis of the skeleton, is caused by fluorine in the drinking water.
Read more about diseases that come from the soil in Science in Focus 12/2014.
This is radon
Radon is not everywhere.
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