Lung Cancer Risks from Radon

Lung Cancer Radon gas decays naturally into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and can lead to lung cancer at some time during the course of your lifetime. Not everyone who is exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer. And the amount of time between the actual exposure and the onset of the disease may in Fact be many years.

Just like many other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty about the magnitude of the health risk posed by Radon. However, we do know more about the risks from Radon than we do about risks from most other cancer-causing substances. This is because our estimates of cancer risks from Radon are actually based on studies of cancer in humans (underground miners) rather than merely laboratory controls such as mice etc.

Smoking tobacco, when combined with Radon is an especially serious health risk. Stop smoking and you will immediately lower your lung cancer risk from Radon exposure. Children have been reported to have greater risk than adults of certain types of cancer from radiation, but there are currently no conclusive data on whether children are at greater risk than adults from Radon.

Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:

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 levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult.)
0.4 pCi/L About 3 people could get lung cancer (Average outdoor radon level) (Reducing radon levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult.)

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.

Radon Risk If You've Never Smoked:

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 people 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 N/A (Average indoor radon level) (Reducing radon levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult.)

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.