Cancer Environmental Home Safety

Home Safety Measures: Tips to Prevent Lung Cancer

Home Safety
Written by Anthony Emecheta

Lung cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed forms of cancer. Studies have shown that around 12.4% of all global cancer cases are related to lung cancer. If left untreated, lung cancer can be fatal. While lung cancers can arise without any specific cause, scientists believe that exposure to certain chemicals can increase the risk of lung cancer development.

A 2022 study of diagnosis and survival rate of lung cancer in the United States found that lung cancer affects Black people disproportionately. At just 16%, Black people had the lowest rate of early-stage lung cancer detection compared to other races (20%). This may partly be due to poorer economic status that prevents them from seeking medical attention on time. Also, Black people had a lower estimated 5-year survival rate (20%) compared to the 22% recorded among White people.

While lung cancer is not preventable, there are chemicals in homes that you should look out for and keep their levels in check. The presence of these chemicals can significantly increase your risk of developing lung cancer.

Chemicals that increase lung cancer risks in homes

Tobacco and Radon are the two biggest risk factors for lung cancer in homes. Therefore, reducing your exposure to tobacco and radon will lower your risk of getting lung cancer.  

Tobacco

Smoking is considered the single most significant risk factor that exposes a lot of people to lung cancer. A study found that 90% of lung cancer cases were linked to smoking tobacco. According to a publication by the American Lung Association, Black American men had the highest percentage of smokers (20.9%), only toppled by American Indians/Alaska Natives women (24.0%).

What is more disturbing is that around 3 in 4 Black American smokers prefer menthol cigarettes. Sadly, several studies have shown that menthol in cigarettes makes it easier for people to start smoking and makes quitting smoking harder.

An even bigger problem is dealing with secondhand smoke—inhaling the smoke puffed out by smokers. Inhaling secondhand smoke is just as dangerous as smoking. Some states have a comprehensive law that protects people from secondhand smoke.

These laws usually prohibit smoking in public (such as parks and beaches), in cars with children, and within feet away from workplace entrances. Interestingly, as of June 2021, only three of ten US states with the highest population of Black residents have comprehensive smokefree laws, which means 47.2% of Black people are exposed to secondhand smoke which is higher than every other race, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Worse still, two of the seven states without comprehensive smokefree laws prevent local communities from adopting comprehensive smokefree laws. The CDC mentioned that the problem is worse among poor communities with less education. Sadly, a large chunk of Black communities falls into this category.

How to make the home safe from tobacco smoke

Encouraging members of the home or visitors who smoke to quit is one of the ways to make the home safe from tobacco. Actions like chewing sugarless gum and avoiding triggers can help smokers to quit. Below are other ways to make your home free from secondhand smoke.

  • Put up a smoke-free sign on the front door and other prominent areas of the home
  • Request family or friends to smoke outside and a few feet away from the home entrance
  • Install Air Purifiers in homes to get rid of smoke and pollen in the air
  • Encourage household members to seek help and provide them with smoking cessation resources or nicotine replacements
  • Create boundaries for your home. Clearly tell individuals that smoking is not permitted on the premises

Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas in soil and rocks under people’s homes. They are released through the natural decay of radium, thorium, and radium. They are present in the air in small amounts. High amounts of radon in homes can increase the risk of lung cancer. The danger with radon is that it is odorless and colorless which makes it hard to detect.

The decay of radon gives off tiny radioactive particles that cause damage to the cells lining the lungs when inhaled. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

A poll found that 55% of Americans are not concerned about radon exposure. The combination of illiteracy and systemic unemployment or lower finances means that Black people are either not aware of the dangers of high radon levels in the home or cannot afford to pay for the test.

How to make the home safe from radon

Unfortunately, the only way to detect the level of radon in homes is through testing. The composition of the soil under and around the house will determine the level of indoor radon. Radon levels are usually higher in basements and lower levels of buildings. Research shows that 10% of lung cancer cases are due to exposure to radon. Below are some of the ways to keep home safe from radon.

  • The concentration of radon can be reduced through proper ventilation of homes
  • Install a smart radon detector in your home to notify you when the levels become higher than EPA’s recommendation of below 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air
  • Installing soil suction pipes that take the radon from below the home to the air above the home where they are quickly diluted

While we have previously highlighted how to prevent accidents in homes, it is important to look out for the things that are not visible too. Behavioral changes like increasing the ventilation level of your home can protect you from invisible hazards that may be lurking around your home. Also, you can leverage tools that can help you to detect the presence of these invisible hazards that can increase your risk of lung cancer.

Even when you have created a safe home environment to prevent lung cancer, never rule out the importance of a comprehensive physical examination. Schedule physical examination with your physician at least once annually. Remember, early detection leads to early treatment which can significantly boost survival rate.

For more reading

https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2024/04/11/household-radon-lung-cancer/7261712847167

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482357

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6037963

https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/smoking-facts/impact-of-tobacco-use/tobacco-use-racial-and-ethnic

https://truthinitiative.org/sites/default/files/media/files/2019/03/LEG-FactSheet-Topical-Menthol-APR2014.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110228

https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/secondhand-smoke/disparities.html

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/radon/radon-fact-sheet

https://www.epa.gov/radon/health-risk-radon

https://amzn.to/49FpERk

https://amzn.to/3UhAp7X

https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2016-12/documents/2016_consumers_guide_to_radon_reduction.pdf

About the author

Anthony Emecheta

Anthony Emecheta holds a master’s degree in microbiology. He is a passionate educator and particularly an advocate of racial equality. He strongly believes the world will be a better place if we all see ourselves as humans first before anything else.

Leave a Comment