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radonIndoor Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause among non-smokers. In order to protect your family it is important to test your home. The EPA, has worked in concert with Federal, State, and local governments as well as volunteer organizations, to conduct many different programs to educate Americans about the indoor radon health threat. About 1 in 15 homes has high radon levels.

Two studies show definitive evidence of an association between residential radon exposure and lung cancer.  These new studies, a North American study and a European study, both combined data from several previous residential studies and went a step beyond earlier findings. They confirmed the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies of underground miner's who breathed radon for a period of years.  Early in the debate about radon-related risks, some researchers questioned whether occupational studies could be used to calculate risks from exposure to radon in the home environment. "These findings effectively end any doubts about the risks to Americans of having radon in their homes," said Tom Kelly, Director of EPA's Indoor Environments Division. "We know that radon is a carcinogen. This research also confirms that breathing low levels of radon can lead to lung cancer."

The Surgeon General of the United States has issued a Health Advisory warning Americans about the health risk from exposure to radon in indoor air. The Nation’s Chief Physician urged Americans to test their homes to find out how much radon they might be breathing.  Dr. Carmona also stressed the need to remedy the problem as soon as possible when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.  Dr. Carmona noted that more than 20,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer each year.

Radon is a radioactive gas.  It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home may trap radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.

Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water (see "Radon in Water" below). In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.

Radon gets in through:

  • Cracks in solid floors
  • Construction joints
  • Cracks in walls
  • Gaps in suspended floors
  • Gaps around service pipes
  • Cavities inside walls
  • The water supply

Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state. Contact your state radon office for general information about radon in your area. While radon problems may be more common in some areas, any home may have a problem. The only way to know about your home is to test.

Radon can also be a problem in schools and workplaces. Ask your state radon office about radon problems in schools, daycare and childcare facilities, and workplaces in your area.

Radon Risk If You Smoke:

Radon Level

If 1,000 people who smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime*...

The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to**...

WHAT TO DO:
Stop smoking and...

20 pCi/L

About 260 people could get lung cancer

250 times the risk of drowning

Fix your home

10 pCi/L

About 150 people could get lung cancer

200 times the risk of dying in a home fire

Fix your home

8 pCi/L

About 120 people could get lung cancer

30 times the risk of dying in a fall

Fix your home

4 pCi/L

About 62 people could get lung cancer

5 times the risk of dying in a car crash

Fix your home

2 pCi/L

About 32 people could get lung cancer

6 times the risk of dying from poison

Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L

1.3 pCi/L

About 20 people could get lung cancer

(Average indoor radon level)

(Reducing radon 
evels below 2 pCi/L is difficult.)

0.4 pCi/L

About 3 people could get lung cancer

(Average outdoor radon level)

Note: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be lower.
* Lifetime risk of lung cancer deaths from EPA Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003).
** Comparison data calculated using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Reports.

If you are a smoker, stop smoking.

Radon Level

If 1,000 people who never smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime*...

The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to**...

WHAT TO DO:

20 pCi/L

About 36 people could get lung cancer

35 times the risk of drowning

Fix your home

10 pCi/L

About 18 people could get lung cancer

20 times the risk of dying in a home fire

Fix your home

8 pCi/L

About 15 people could get lung cancer

4 times the risk of dying in a fall

Fix your home

4 pCi/L

About 7 people could get lung cancer

The risk of dying in a car crash

Fix your home

2 pCi/L

About 4 person could get lung cancer

The risk of dying from poison

Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L

1.3 pCi/L

About 2 people could get lung cancer

(Average indoor radon level)

(Reducing radon levels below 
2 pCi/L is difficult.)

0.4 pCi/L

(Average outdoor radon level)

Note: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be higher.
* Lifetime risk of lung cancer deaths from EPA Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003).
** Comparison data calculated using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Reports.

Comparison data calculated using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Reports.

It's never too late to reduce your risk of lung cancer.  Don't wait to test and fix a radon problem.