How was it determined that between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year are caused by radon?
Friday, June 29, 2018
Here’s the thing to know: lung cancer deaths caused by radon gas are not reported by physicians and tallied by a government agency each year to arrive at those numbers, because it cannot be verified that a particular lung cancer death was the direct result of radon exposure. According to the National Cancer Institute, “radon was identified as a health problem when scientists noted that uranium miners that were exposed to it died of lung cancer at higher rates. The results of miner studies have been confirmed by experimental animal studies, which show higher rates of lung tumors among rodents exposed to high radon levels.”
Other studies then compared the rate of lung cancer incidence in homes with high radon to lung cancer occurrence in homes with an acceptable radon level, ultimately analyzing the data from thousands of people. The conclusion, again according to the National Cancer Institute, was that “the results of this analysis demonstrated a slightly increased risk of lung cancer for individuals with elevated exposure to household radon. This increased risk was consistent with the estimated level of risk based on studies of underground miners.”
The “15,000 to 22,000” estimate of radon-related lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. was extrapolated from the “slightly increased risk” percentage indicated by the studies combined with the estimated number of homes that have elevated radon. The radioactivity of radon damages the tissue lining of your lungs when you breathe it in, and that damage may lead to lung cancer—or it may not.
A number of other environmental and genetic factors also come into play. Smoking cigarettes enhances the lung damage done by radon, for example, and the EPA estimates that only 2,900 of the annual radon-related deaths in the U.S. are people who never smoked.
But the fact that no one can state with certainty that a particular person’s lung cancer was caused by, or related to, radon does not mean it should be ignored. The science is very clear that elevated radon also elevates your risk of lung cancer. Why would you knowingly increase your risk of lung cancer?
We recommend that you test the radon level in your home and, if it is higher than the EPA recommended limit of 4.0 pico-curies per liter of air, a professional radon mitigation contractor should install a system to reduce it down to below the 4.0 level.
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