Smoking, radon and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer and the survival rate of lung cancer is one of the lowest for those with cancer, killing thousands of Americans every year.
What is Radon?
Radon is an ordorless, colorless radioactive gas that can be present in dangerous levels in the home. Released from rock or soil, radon seeps into homes through foundation cracks, radon can reach hazardous levels if trapped indoors. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been active on indoor radon issues for more than 20 years, and recommends that all homes in the United States be tested for radon and harmful, high levels be reduced.
Radon inhalation accounts for up to 14 percent of lung cancers worldwide, and is the world’s second-leading risk of lung cancer, next to smoking.
Smokers and Radon
According to the American Cancer Society, the leading cause of lung cancer is smoking with an estimated 160,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. every year, Lung cancer now surpasses breast cancer as the number one cause of death among women. A smoker who is also exposed to harmful levels of radon has even a higher risk of getting lung cancer.
Non-smokers, Secondhand Smoke and Radon
According to EPA estimates, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and overall, the second leading cause of lung cancer – responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. Approximately 2,899 of radon deaths occur among people who have never smoked. The third leading cause of lung cancer is secondhand smoke and responsible for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also have serious consequences for children’s health, including asthma attacks, respiratory tract problems (bronchitis, pneumonia), and may cause ear infections.
Evidence Linking Residential Radon Exposure to Lung Cancer
A North American study and a European study in 2005 show direct evidence linking residential radon exposure to lung cancer. Both studies combined data from several previous residential studies and onfirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies of underground miner’s who breathed radon for a period of years. “These findings effectively end any doubts about the risks to Americans of having radon in their homes,” said Tom Kelly, Former Director of EPA’s Indoor Environments Division. “We know that radon is a carcinogen. This research confirms that breathing low levels of radon can lead to lung cancer.”
National Health Advisory on Radon from the U.S. Surgeon General
In January of 2005, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a Health Advisory warning Americans about the health risk from exposure to radon in indoor air. The Chief Physician urged Americans to test their homes to find out how much radon they might be breathing. The Surgeon General also stressed the need to remedy the problem as soon as possible when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more, noting that more than 20,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer each year.
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