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Lung Cancer Prevention: Avoiding Asbestos and Radon Gas

written by: J.Sace • edited by: DaniellaNicole • updated: 8/13/2010

Asbestos and radon are harmful chemicals that can initiate the formation of cancer cells in human lungs. Staying away from these hazardous chemicals is one of the effective ways in lung cancer prevention.

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    Prevention of lung cancer can be done by minimizing our contact or exposure to hazardous chemicals like asbestos and radon. These chemicals can be present everywhere and it is very unfortunate that we hardly notice their presence. It is therefore important that we should be aware of things that made up of asbestos or places that radon gas might exist. This article presents important facts about asbestos and radon gas and how they are linked to lung cancer development in humans.

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    Asbestos:

    Asbestos is the “fibrous form of several minerals and hydrous silicates of magnesium (Asbestos, Microsoft Encarta 2008).” It has many manufacturing and industrial uses. It is widely used in manufacturing insulation materials, fire fighter clothing, various fabrics, missile and jet parts, paints, asphalt, brake linings, and many more.

    The many uses of asbestos are overshadowed by the danger that it poses to the human lungs. Inhaled or ingested asbestos particles could cause asbestosis (inflammation of the lungs) that may progress to lung cancer after several years, at least 30 years.

    There is still no good substitute for asbestos; this might be the reason why the US Court of Appeals partially overturned the proposal of the Environmental Protection Agency (APA) to ban totally and immediately the major products made of asbestos in 1986. It turned out that asbestos was only banned as a flooring material and new kinds of products made up of asbestos were not allowed to be marketed (Asbestos, Microsoft Encarta 2008).

    Avoiding the use of asbestos products is a significant move in the prevention of lung cancer. We should find alternatives for things made up of asbestos, especially those things that we use in our everyday life.

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    Radon Gas:

    Radon is a heavy and radioactive element that belongs to the noble gases. It is odorless and colorless which make it hard to detect in closed environments. It is produced from the decay of the elements uranium and radium that are present in soil and rocks. Because it is heavier than air, it can accumulate in closed places like basements, caves, and mines. Charged particles of radon can easily bind to dust particles that can be inhaled by individuals working in an environment where radon gases are present (Radon, Microsoft Encarta 2008).

    Radon gas is a risk factor in lung cancer development. Active and passive smokers have higher risks of developing radon-related lung cancer than those who don’t smoke (Radon, WebMD 2009). Miners are at higher risk of developing lung cancer due to radon because of the presence of high amount of radon gases inside the mine (WebMD 2009). If the miners are also active smokers, their risk of developing lung cancer is even higher. Studies claim that radon-related lung cancer kills 21,800 people annually (Radon, Microsoft Encarta 2008).

    Ventilating closed areas (WebMD 2) like building basements and mines is an effective way of eliminating radon gases. Protective gears (e.g. mask) must be given to workers to protect themselves from inhaling radon gas.

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    Sources

    "Radon." Microsoft® Student 2008 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2007.

    "Asbestos." Microsoft® Student 2008 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2007.

    WebMD 1. “Lung Cancer Prevention: Evidence of Benefit” Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/tc/default.htm. January 19, 2009.

    WebMD 2: “Radon and Lung Cancer” Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/radon. January 23, 2009.