The Camera's Nov. 23 article "County cautions on fireplaces" details some of the dangers of using wood-burning stoves or fireplaces for heating. This article left out one warning — possibly the most important — about hazards that should be better understood by people who use wood-burning stoves or fireplaces (and/or who smoke indoors). This is the likely presence of radon in their homes. Thankfully, more people are now cognizant of the dangers of indoor radon (from the soils and rocks under their homes), and use mitigating ventilation.
Airborne radon easily "gloms" onto tiny particulates from wood burning, smoking — or water mist — and is breathed deeply into the lungs, where it is difficult for the lungs to expel. Radon gas is the second-highest cause of lung cancer; it is the highest cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Boulder County has an info sheet that says, "Radon and smoking produce a synergistic effect." This effect presumably includes breathing particulates from wood stoves.
People with private wells for water often don't realize their water can be a source of indoor radon. Groundwater readily absorbs radon from the soils and rocks surrounding the wells, which diffuses into indoor air from faucets and showers. Radon levels exceeding 2,000 pCi/L have been measured in bathrooms after a shower, for example.
The EPA safe level of indoor radon level is 4 pCi/L, but a study of Iowa women found a 50 percent increased lung cancer risk from 20 years' exposure of 4 pCi/L. All of Colorado and Boulder County are in EPA's Zone 1 (highest radon levels), where average indoor radon often exceeds 4 pCi/L. Well water in high-radon areas can have radon levels exceeding 10,000 pCi/L.
Charlie Brennan's article should have included information about the individual dangers of wood smoke plus radon from air and well water.
Photo Source: http://galechimneyservice.com