Health Risks of Radon

The Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. E.P.A.) and the Surgeons General's Office have urged widespread testing for radon. They estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon. Next to smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. EPA says that nearly 1 in 3 homes checked in seven states and on three Indian lands had screening levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA's recommended action level for radon exposure. Radon is a national environmental health problem.

One method of radon mitigation.
Elevated radon levels have been discovered in virtually every state. The EPA estimates that as many as 8 million homes throughout the country have elevated levels of radon. State surveys to date show that 1 out of 5 homes has elevated radon levels. Radon seeps into homes from the surrounding soil through cracks and other openings in the foundation. Indoor radon has been judged to be the most serious environmental carcinogen to which the general public is exposed and which the EPA must address. Based on current exposure and risk estimates, radon exposure in single-family houses may be a causal factor in as many as 20,000 of the total lung cancer fatalities which occur each year. Radon decay products (polonium- 218 and polonium-214, solid form) can attach to the surface of aerosols, dusts, and smoke particles which may be inhaled, and become deeply lodged or trapped in the lungs. Once lodged, they can radiate and penetrate the cells of mucous membranes, bronchi, and other pulmonary tissues.

Some scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage.