Does Radon Really Cause Lung Cancer?
The Truth About Lung Cancer for Non-Smokers
By Ed Buckley
Bethlehem PA – July 12, 2006. There has been much in the news lately about the link between radon and lung cancer. The untimely death of Dana Reeves earlier this year compels us to find out what led to her death and begs the question “Was there something in the air?”
The evidence is in, and, unmistakably, there is a clear and present danger. What is the danger? Deadly radon gas. Although no one can conclusively say that radon killed Dana, there is strong evidence that supports this theory. Radon is one of the most researched of all carcinogens. This odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas is virtually everywhere in varying concentrations which are much higher indoors. The very fact that radon is radioactive is cause for alarm. The US EPA, NIH, CDC, and the Surgeon General all tell us that radon causes cancer and that there is no exposure level considered safe.
Radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers
According to the EPA,
“In two 1999 reports, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded after an exhaustive review that radon in indoor air is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoking. The NAS estimated that 15,000-22,000 Americans die every year from radon-related lung cancer. Cigarette smoke makes radon much more dangerous.
“When people who smoke are exposed to radon as well, the risk of developing lung cancer is significantly higher than the risk of smoking alone. People who don't smoke, but are exposed to second hand smoke, also have higher risk of lung cancer from radon indoors.”
These reports also show that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. But whether you smoke or not, radon induced lung cancer should be a health concern. Before you panic, however, it is important to know what your risk level is. The key to understanding your risk is knowing the radon concentration in your home, school, or workplace – the places where you spend most of your time. The only way to know your radon exposure for sure is to test.
How to protect yourself
The first step is to test your home. Radon test kits are available from various sources, but there are many confusing choices: short term vs. long term radon tests, the question of how many test kits you need, and finally where to place them. There is a radon wizard that has two animated characters, Rae the Radon Receptionist, and Dr. Don the Radon Professor, that lead you step-by-step through 7 questions. Based on your answers, the wizard then matches your home’s configuration to over 800 possible choices. The radon wizard then suggests the type, quantity, and test location(s) for your specific situation. Whatever approach you use, get your kits and follow the directions on the package.
It is likely that some areas of your home have higher concentrations than others. Also, radon levels vary at different times of the year. If your test result is above the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter the EPA recommends having your home fixed.
Fixing your home involves reducing the amount of radon in your home. The best way to fix your home depends on its construction and how the radon is entering it. The good news is that radon reduction, or mitigation systems, are generally straightforward to implement.
In conclusion, whether you are a smoker or not, the health threat of radon in our indoor environment is very real. The key to understanding the severity of this threat is knowing your radon level. The only way to know your level is to test. Don’t wait – test today.