FAQs: Radon’s Health Effects
Some people think radon gas is a hoax or fraud — a way for unscrupulous contractors to get money out of homeowners. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is an overwhelming consensus on the health risks posed by radon poisoning. You can read about radon’s health risk from public health organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institute of Health (NIH), the American Lung Association, and many others.
For a brief lesson on the nature of radon gas, please read What is Radon?
Frequently Asked Questions About Radon and Health:
- Is radon a hoax?
- Does radon cause cancer?
- What is radon poisoning?
- Are there other health effects from exposure to radon?
- Who is most at risk from radon?
- What can I do to protect myself from radon?
Is radon a hoax?
No, radon is not a hoax. The scientific community agrees: exposure to high levels of radon is a serious health risk. The following organizations recommend radon testing and use of a radon remediation service if the levels are too high:
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency
- Centers for Disease Control
- The United States Surgeon General
- National Institute of Health
- National Academy of Sciences
- United States Congress
- National Environmental Health Association
- American Lung Association
- American Medical Association
- World Health Organization
- National Radon Safety Board
Check out more radon resources from public health organizations for further reading.
Does radon cause cancer?
Yes, the primary health risk of radon is cancer. Radon is a carcinogen whose decay products damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer.
Radon may not cause damage right away, but long-term exposure can lead to lung cancer. Unfortunately, there are no easy ways to tell you’ve been exposed too much radon. By the time serious symptoms occur, the damage may be done already.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, over six million homes in the United States have radon levels above the recommended level.
What is radon “poisoning”?
Are there other health effects from exposure to radon?
Lung cancer is the only established health hazard posed by radon. However, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, resulting in about 21,000 deaths per year.
Who is most at risk from radon?
There is no “safe” level of radon. Anyone who’s exposed to it runs the risk of contracting lung cancer from that exposure. Age, the duration of exposure, and the concentration of radon all play a factor in those health risks.
For example, the CDC website states, “Due to lung shape and size differences, children have higher estimated radiation doses than do adults. Children also have breathing rates faster than those of adults. Risk of lung cancer in children resulting from exposure to radon may be almost twice as high as the risk to adults exposed to the same amount of radon.”
Time of year also has an impact on the risks, as radon levels often rise in the winter.
Exposure to radon is compounded if you smoke — the risk of lung cancer from radon is estimated to be 10 to 20 times higher for cigarette smokers.
What can I do to protect myself from radon?
Radon is a documented health hazard that affects 1 in 15 homes in the United States. However, radon poses a long-term health threat: the risks go up the longer you are exposed to elevated radon levels.
If you are worried about exposure to radon, you should have your home tested. If you find elevated levels of radon in your home, the best thing to do is to contact radon professionals to install a radon mitigation system.
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