Home Radon Exposure Linked to Lung Cancer Risk

According to emerging studies, there is now clear proof that <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">radon gas increases lung cancer risks. Radon is an odorless and colorless gas that can be found in many homes.

According to Reuters, a United Nations committee report just released stated that officials on the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) revealed “the first quantifiable evidence of the risk in homes from radon, long seen as a potential health risk.” The World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies were updating maximum radon level recommendations for homes and workplaces, said Reuters. The information was based on the 20 studies that looked at “tens of thousands of lung cancer patients in North America, Europe and China,” said Reuters.

“(Up to now) radon has been a typical health risk no one wants to accept or take note of,” Wolfgang Weiss, UNSCEAR’s vice chairman, said in a news conference, quoted Reuters. According to Weiss, the report is of note given that prior radon risk estimates were taken from studies of uranium miners who had been exposed to high radon levels, said Reuters, not of general consumers.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings and reportedly causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States alone. Radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, and radon-induced lung cancer is thought to be the sixth leading cause of cancer death overall.

“In the meantime we’ve done 20 studies in homes where concentrations are very low, and there we can see a risk, it is small, but it is certainly there. You can avoid smoking by just taking personal decisions … (But) radon is everywhere,” quoted Reuters. According to Weiss, the UNSCEAR’s findings have WHO and other health policy agencies reconsidering the issue, said Reuters. “There will be consequences in regulation through the lowering of recommended levels of radon in workplaces and homes,” Weiss added.

In 2008, we reported that while marble makers disagreed, test results at the time revealed that some granite countertops were emitting dangerous radon levels into consumers’ homes. Some groups were urging consumers with such countertops to have them tested for the amounts of radon gas they emit over concerns that amounts are above levels considered safe.

Marble manufacturers maintain that, “Radiation in granite is not dangerous,” but the EPA says radon is “a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell, or taste. Its presence in your home can pose a danger to your family’s health. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.”

The amount of radon in the air is measured in “picoCuries per liter of air,” or “pCi/L,” and the EPA says 4 pCi/L is the level of radon exposure that requires someone to take action. The EPA says levels lower than that “still pose a risk” and “in many cases, may be reduced.” According to a 2008 New York Times article, 4 picoCuries is “about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day.”

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