What is radon gas? The science tells us Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell, or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home or business. The Surgeon General warns that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and second leading cause for smokers in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, you are at high risk of developing lung cancer. The science of radon exposure indicates children are more sensitive to radon due to their higher respiration rate and rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage. Learn more about radon testing here. Marie Curie won her two Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry for research into the radioactivity of uranium and radium, which becomes radon gas. This is why radon levels are measured in picocurie per liter of air (pCi/L).
RADON FACT SHEET
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Surgeon General’s Office estimate more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon.
According to EPA, nearly 1 in 3 homes checked in seven states and on three Indian lands had screening levels over 4 pCi/L, which is EPA’s threshold for action due to radon exposure. The World Health Organization has reduced its radon exposure threshold for action to 2.7 pCi/L.
The alpha radiation emitted by radon is the same as emitted by other radiation sources such as plutonium.
A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to +/-35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site.
An elementary school student that spends 8 hours per day and 180 days per year in a classroom with 4 pCi/L of radon will receive nearly 10 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant.
Most EPA lifetime safety standards for carcinogens are established based on a 1 in 100,000 risk of death. Most scientists agree the risk of death for radon exposure at 4 pCi/L is approximately 1 in 100. At the 4 pCi/L EPA action threshold, radon gas carries approximately 1000 times the risk of death as any other EPA carcinogen. It is important to note that the action level is not a safe level. There there are no “safe” levels of radon gas.
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