The Radon Journey: Earth to Lungs

Radon has always been with us. Radon comes from Uranium, a naturally radioactive element that exists in varying quantities depending on the type of rock and soil. The gas travels through the soil intact to the surface. If the surface happens to have a house at the exit point, the “chimney effect” (see illustration) causes a negative air pressure in the substructure which draws the Radon through the cracks and openings into the house. The Radon, now in the house, begins to build up and go through its radioactive decay cycle, producing radioactive daughter products. During the decay cycle, the radioactive decay products attach to dust and air particulates and are inhaled by the inhabitants of the house. Once inhaled into the respiratory system, the radioactive decay products emit radioactivity directly to the adjoining cells. This activity has been proven to greatly increase incidences of lung cancer in humans. The US EPA has estimated that about 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year in the United State may be attributed to Radon.

Here’s what the Experts say about Radon:

“How bad is Lung Cancer?”

  • “The lung cancer five-year survival rate (17.8 percent) is lower than many other leading cancer sites, such as the colon (65.4 percent), breast (90.5 percent) and prostate (99.6 percent).”
  • “The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 54 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized (within the lungs). However, only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. For distant tumors (spread to other organs) the five-year survival rate is only 4 percent.”
  • “More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.”

American Lung Association

For Home Buyers & Sellers

“Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country. It’s important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well-established venting techniques.”


It’s essential that Homebuyers test for Radon

“The EPA recommends that all houses, regardless of what radon zone the house is located in, be tested for radon during point of sale. The most common procedure for radon testing during real estate transactions is for the potential buyer to request the radon test as part of the overall home inspection. The radon test is generally a separate service and must be requested. If the radon test is 4 pCi/L or greater, the EPA recommends the potential buyer negotiate with the seller to have a radon mitigation system installed with the stated goal of bringing the radon level in the home below 4 pCi/L. “

(Cooperative Agreement between the US EPA and Kansas State University)

Hotline 1-800-SOS-RADON

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 5, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire

“The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today urged all Pennsylvanians to test their homes for radon, a deadly radioactive gas that’s the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the United States. DEP also urged residents to take action to reduce radon levels in their homes if they are high.”

“Due to our geology, radon is found everywhere in Pennsylvania. For that reason, we urge residents to test their homes to protect themselves and their family’s health,”

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection,
Secretary John Quigley

“Whenever you are purchasing a new home, you really should get a radon test before closing the sale. If radon testing reveals that there is an unacceptable level of radon found within your home, it is a good idea to initiate radon remediation methods. By doing so you will be able to rest assured that this gas will not accumulate within your home again. Of course, you can also use this as an argument to lower the home’s price or have the seller pay for the necessary radon remediation procedure. On the other hand, if you are selling your home and would like to get a good price for it, you should consider getting radon testing and doing any necessary remediation procedures before placing your home on the market. Either way, radon testing and remediation should be a part of a real estate sale.”® is the official site of the National Association of REALTORS

Radon and Hematologic Cancer in Women

“A news report from American Cancer Society researchers finds a statistically significant, positive association between high levels of residential radon and the risk of hematologic cancer (lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia) in women. The study is the first prospective, population-based study of residential radon exposure and hematologic cancer risk, leading the authors to caution that it requires replication to better understand the association and whether it truly differs by sex. It appears early online in Environmental Research.”

American Cancer Society

Radon and COPD

“There was a significant positive linear trend in COPD mortality with increasing categories of radon concentrations …Findings suggest residential radon may increase COPD mortality…. This large prospective study suggests that residential exposure to radon may increase COPD mortality. Although it is unclear whether radon may lead to the induction or exacerbation of COPD (or both), radon may lead to pulmonary inflammation and damage associated with both COPD and lung cancer. The present findings require replication in other settings. If confirmed, airway dysfunction may represent an early indicator of the radon effect. Further research is needed to confirm this finding, and to better understand possible complex inter-relationships between radon, COPD and lung cancer.”

From “Radon and COPD mortality in the American Cancer Society Cohort

Environmental radon exposure and childhood leukemia.

“Among 12 ecological studies, 11 reported a positive association between radon levels and elevated frequency of childhood leukemia, with 8 being significant.”

National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine

The following recommend all homes be tested for radon:

  • The U.S. Surgeon General
  • Dept. of Health and Human Services
  • The American Medical Association
  • Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors
  • The American Cancer Society
  • The American Lung Association
  • The American Public Health Association
  • The National Academy of Science
  • The Health Physics Society
  • Council on Radiation Protection
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • The Environmental Protection Agency
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • US Department of Energy
  • US Green Building Council
  • National Association of Counties