Saturday, July 19, 2008

Radon is not a comic book nemesis

...but apparently it does increase the likelihood of one's developing lung cancer. It's the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. You can read about this fantastic inert gas here.

The gas results from uranium depleting in the soil and is naturally occurring. Especially in central and northen Guåhan. (But not in southern Guåhan thanks to erosion--needless to say, that environmental nightmare is for another post.)

Thanks to the helpful folks at the Guam EPA and the free radon test the department gives out, we now know that our house contains dangerous levels of radon, which can either be mitigated by a) Leaving windows open 24/7 (impossible with the electronic equipment we have) or 2) Installing a $3,000 fan that circulates air from the foundation. In the meantime, I guess we're inhaling the approximate equivalent of 135 cigarettes a day.

The one interesting thing to come out of all this is that it's gotten me to thinking about how lifestyles change over time. Apparently, radon has always existed on Guåhan (and in most parts of the world), but it has not presented a problem in societies where people live in the open air or have adequately ventilated houses (i.e. like huts, or houses with open terraces). It has only been the advent of earthquake and typhoon-proof building, in conjunction with a move towards indoor living on Guåhan, which has necessitated the check on radon.

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to put off asking the landlords for new cabinets and a bathroom sink. Stay tuned for more info on exactly what other mini Superfund sites the inhabitants of Guåhan live. There are lots.

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