radon chemical in test tubes as a pink liquid

Can I sue for exposure to radon gas in California?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

In California, if you are unknowingly exposed to radon gas that results in injuries or illness, you have the right to sue the responsible party to recover damages. The possibility of suing for exposure to radon gas depends on several factors:

  • Source of Exposure:
    • Grounds for a lawsuit may exist if the exposure was due to negligence or legal violations by a landlord, builder, or employer. California law mandates landlords to inform tenants about known radon hazards.
  • Workplace Exposure:
    • Your employer could be liable if the exposure occurred at work and they violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards or state safety regulations.
  • Product Liability:
    • If exposure resulted from a defective product that did not protect against radon or caused unnecessary exposure, there may be a claim against the manufacturer.
  • Personal Injury Claim:
    • To file a personal injury claim, you must prove harm caused by the exposure and the responsible party’s negligence. Medical evidence is required to establish a direct link between your health issues and radon exposure.
  • Real Estate Transactions:
    • If radon exposure is linked to a real estate transaction where the seller failed to disclose radon risks, you might have a claim against the seller.

Each case is unique, and the success of a lawsuit will depend on the specific circumstances of your exposure and the relevant laws in California. That is why it is so important for you to speak to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who is licensed in the state of California to guide you through the process of seeking justice for your radon exposure.

What is Radon gas?

Radon gas is a radioactive, colorless, and odorless gas that is found naturally under the ground and sometimes leaks through the ground into the air. Radon is a chemical element (like Oxygen or Nitrogen) that is harmful to humans when they are exposed to it for prolonged periods. 

Radon gas is not a chemical compound (a substance made up of multiple elements atomically bound to each other) like water or bleach, but is a  natural chemical element on the Periodic Table with atomic number 86. It is part of a group called the Noble gases, along with Neon, Argon, Helium and others. They are sometimes called the “inert gases” due to their extremely low level of reactivity, meaning they do not typically have any kind of reaction when exposed to other elements or chemical compounds (unlike salt and vinegar, for example).

How is Radon gas formed?

Radon gas is a natural element that appears on Earth when larger radioactive elements such as Uranium, Thorium, or Radium begin to decay over time, losing their outer electrons and becoming different elements with lower atomic numbers, including Radon, until they finally reach a state of stability and non-radioactivity when they decay into Lead.

Uranium itself, well known as the key ingredient in atomic weapons, is believed by scientists to be created deep in the reaches of outer space when stars go Supernova and when neutron stars violently merge together. These astoundingly incredible displays of energy are so powerful that they create a series of nuclear reactions called the rapid neutron-capture process (or the “r-process”) that quite literally smashes together atoms to create bigger atoms.

These larger elements that are created in the r-process, called “heavy metals”, include gold, silver, plutonium and many others. After these elements are created they can then float throughout space for billions of years before new stars and planets form using those and other materials, which is how Earth acquired its heavy metals, including Uranium.

After 4.5 billion years, Uranium decays into radon gas deep in the Earth’s crust, which sometimes leaks up through the ground. These deep pockets of Uranium can be anywhere in the Earth, and so it is extremely difficult to know where a radon leak can spring up from, but when it does occur, it can sometimes leak right into a person’s home (while their neighbors may be completely safe from harm), which can lead to health problems with prolonged exposure.

What happens when you are exposed to Radon gas?

Exposure to radon gas can have various health effects, particularly with long-term exposure. Here is a list of the primary concerns:

  1. Lung Cancer Risk: The most significant risk from prolonged exposure to radon is lung cancer. Radon decay products (radon progeny) can be inhaled and become lodged in the lungs, where they continue to decay and emit radiation, damaging lung tissue and potentially leading to lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer from radon exposure is higher for smokers compared to non-smokers.
  2. No Immediate Symptoms: Radon exposure typically does not cause any immediate symptoms. Unlike many other environmental hazards, radon exposure won’t lead to immediate signs like coughing, headache, fever, or skin rashes. This makes it difficult to realize that you’re being exposed to high levels of radon unless the area is tested.
  3. Increased Risk Over Time: The risk associated with radon exposure is cumulative. The longer and more intense the exposure, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer.
  4. Children’s Vulnerability: Some studies suggest that children might be more vulnerable to radon exposure due to their higher respiratory rates and rapidly dividing cells.
  5. Other Respiratory Issues: While lung cancer is the primary concern, some studies have suggested a possible link between radon exposure and other respiratory diseases, although the evidence is less clear than for lung cancer.

It’s important to test homes and buildings for radon, especially in areas known to have high radon levels. If high levels are detected, proper ventilation and other mitigation strategies can significantly reduce exposure and associated health risks.

How do you test your home for Radon?

Testing your home for radon is an important step in ensuring a safe living environment. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Purchase a Radon Test Kit:
    • Radon test kits are available at hardware stores, home improvement centers, online, or through some local health departments.
    • There are two main types of radon testing kits: short-term and long-term. Short-term kits are used for initial screening and typically measure radon levels for 2 to 7 days. Long-term kits measure levels for 90 days to one year and are more accurate in determining a home’s average radon level.
  2. Choose the Right Location:
    • Test the lowest level of your home that is regularly used (like a basement if it’s frequently used, or a ground floor if not).
    • Place the test kit at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it won’t be disturbed, away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and exterior walls.
  3. Follow Instructions Carefully:
    • Read and follow the instructions that come with the test kit very carefully.
    • Generally, windows and doors should be kept closed as much as possible during the testing period, especially for short-term tests.
  4. Send the Kit to a Laboratory:
    • After the testing period is complete, seal the test kit and send it to a laboratory for analysis.
    • The lab will analyze the kit and send you the results.
  5. Interpret the Results:
    • Radon levels are measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). 
    • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends taking action to reduce radon levels in homes that have a radon level at or above 4 pCi/L.
  6. Consider a Follow-Up Test:
    • If your initial test shows high levels, consider retesting to confirm.
    • If levels are borderline, you might also want to conduct a long-term test for a better understanding of your home’s average radon level.
  7. Hire a Professional for High Levels:
    • If high radon levels are confirmed, it’s advisable to contact a qualified radon mitigation contractor to discuss ways to lower the levels in your home.

Remember, radon levels can vary over time and with changes in weather, so it may be wise to test for radon periodically. Regular testing ensures that any changes in radon levels are detected and managed promptly.

What to do if you have been diagnosed with lung cancer due to Radon exposure?

 If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer that is due to radon exposure, there are several steps you should consider taking:

  • Seek Medical Treatment:
    • Work with healthcare professionals to establish a lung cancer treatment plan. 
  • Consult a Specialist:
    • Consider seeing a lung cancer specialist for detailed information on treatment options.
  • Document Your Exposure:
    • Gather evidence of radon exposure, including radon test results and any relevant communications.
  • Legal Advice:
    • Consult with a lawyer specializing in environmental law or personal injury to explore compensation options.
  • File for Workers’ Compensation:
    • If exposure was work-related, investigate the possibility of workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Contact Radon Mitigation Services:
    • Hire professionals to reduce radon levels in your home if they are still high.
  • Emotional and Psychological Support:
    • Seek support from counseling, support groups, or mental health professionals for coping with the cancer diagnosis.
  • Inform Family Members:
    • Encourage family members who shared the living space to get tested for radon and screened for lung cancer if necessary.
  • Lifestyle Changes:
    • Support your treatment and recovery with healthy lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise, and quitting smoking.
  • Stay Informed:
    • Educate yourself about lung cancer and radon exposure to make informed decisions about your care and legal options.

Contact A California Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you have been exposed to Radon, it is important to understand that there are laws in place in the state of California designed to protect you. Call J&Y Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA today at (877) 310-2104 for a free consultation to discuss your situation and to determine the right path forward for you and your family to get the justice you deserve.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.