Radon Gas is the Leading Environmental Cause of Lung Cancer

  • You cannot see, smell, or taste radon. It is an extremely radioactive gas, emitting alpha radiation as it decays.
  • Once inside the lungs, delicate tissues can be genetically damaged by radon decay products, and this can lead to the development of lung cancer.
  • Radon is one of the most significant environmental health risks today, responsible for an estimated 500 deaths every year in Colorado.

Here's what you need to know to protect your family from radon exposures and reduce your lung cancer risk:


What is Radon?

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. It forms naturally from the decay of radioactive elements, such as uranium, which are found in different amounts in soil and rock throughout the world. Radon gas in the soil and rock can move into the air and into underground water and surface water. Radon is present at very low levels in outdoor air (0.4 pCi/L on average) and it can be found at higher levels in the air in houses and other buildings, as well as in water from underground sources, such as well water.

Indoor radon concentrations above 4 pCi/L pose a lung cancer risk to occupants equivalent to smoking roughly half a pack of cigarettes per day. To dramatically reduce indoor radon concentrations and the associated risk to occupants in a home like this, a mitigation system should be installed in the home by a radon professional to exhaust the gas outside the building envelope. Due to the Rocky Mountain geology almost half of the homes in Colorado have indoor radon concentrations at or above this level. Since every home and location is unique, the only way to know your indoor radon concentration is by testing.

Radon breaks down into solid radioactive elements called radon progeny (such as polonium-218, polonium-214, and lead-214). Radon progeny can attach to dust and other particles, including smoke from cigarettes and wood-burning stoves, and can be breathed into the lungs, where they get stuck. As radon and radon progeny in the air break down, they give off radiation that can damage the DNA inside the body's cells and cause cancer. The incidence of lung cancers attributable to high radon concentrations are 8 times higher in non-smokers and 62 times higher in smokers than the general population not exposed to high radon. [Infographic]

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