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April 23, 2011

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Free indoor air quality tests

Families decorating their homes can get a free indoor air quality test this year and next as the Shanghai Environmental Protection Association said yesterday it wants to raise awareness of pollution indoors.

The tests will check formaldehyde, benzene, volatile organic compounds and radon, a major indoor radioactive substance that increases the risk of getting lung cancer.

Families can apply for the test by calling 5115-7376 or visiting the association's website before August 31. The results of each test will be used to compile a report on indoor air quality.

While the public is aware of the harm of formaldehyde, benzene and other volatile indoor pollutants, experts said few people realize the danger of radon.

Different from volatile pollutants that smell bad, radon, mainly from soil, brick, concrete and decorative materials like granite and ceramic tiles, is odorless and invisible, radiation experts said.

A previous radon check in some public areas found most places had a higher average level of the substance than other areas of the country.

"Indoor air pollution can cause leukemia, heart disease, skin diseases and various cancers as the pollutants can impact organs, the nervous system and the reproductive system," said Feng Weiheng, a radiation expert from the Shanghai Environmental Protection Association. "Compared with other pollutants, few people understand how harmful radon can be."

Indoor radon results in 20,000 lung cancer deaths in Europe every year. Radon kills 21,000 people in the United States every year, surpassing the number of deaths caused by AIDS, Feng said.

About 50,000 people die every year in China due to lung cancer related to radon, which is on a list of 19 major cancer-leading substances by the World Health Organization and the second leading cause of lung caner, following smoking.

"A domestic study found about 23.7 percent of lung cancer cases were caused by radon in Tianjin," Feng said. "Lung cancer is also the most prevalent cancer in Shanghai."

Experts said families should choose high-quality decorative materials and send samples for checks beforehand. Feng added that proper ventilation is also a good way to reduce the density of radon indoors.


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