The Surgeon General has warned that
radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in
the United States. There are currently no conclusive
data on whether children are at greater risk than adults
from radon. No specific subtype of lung cancer is associated
with radon exposure.
Only smoking causes more cases of
lung cancer. If you smoke and you are exposed to elevated
radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially
high. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
provides radon risk comparison charts for people who
smoke and those who have never smoked. Stop smoking
and lower your radon level to reduce your lung cancer
Radon gas decays into radioactive
particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you
breathe. As they break down further, these particles
release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung
tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your
lifetime. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of
radon will develop lung cancer, and the amount of time
between exposure and the onset of the disease may be
Breathing radon does not cause any
short-term health effects such as shortness of breath,
coughing, headaches, or fever.
In 1998, the National Academy of
Sciences (NAS) released the Biological Effects of Ionizing
Radiation (BEIR VI) Report, "The Health Effects
of Exposure to Indoor Radon." The study reviewed
and evaluated data from many prior studies and drew
conclusions. It fully supports estimates by EPA that
radon causes about 15,000 lung cancer deaths per year.
Though some people debate the number of deaths, it is
widely agreed that radon exposure is the second leading
cause of lung cancer.
Research suggests that swallowing
water with high radon levels may pose risks, too, although
risks from drinking water containing radon are much
lower than those from breathing air containing radon.
A NAS report on radon in drinking water, "Risk
Assessment of Radon in Drinking Water," was released
in 1999. It concluded drinking radon in water causes
about 19 stomach cancer deaths per year.
EPA provides more information about
health effects from radon in their publication, Radon
- A Physician's Guide.
Environmental Protection Agency