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Environment and Occupational - Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas linked to lung cancer yet present in almost every home

Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that is released from the earth’s crust into the air and then into houses and buildings usually through cracks in the basement or through natural building materials like slate and stone.  The gas can accumulate in houses at levels associated with health risks. Because radon is radioactive, it decays into other particles called radon daughters that can be inhaled and deposited into the lung epithelium. These radioactive particles can induce mutation and ultimately lung cancer. Occupational radon exposure in mines significantly increases the risk of lung cancer in miners and residential radon exposure, lung cancer risk in the general population. Using various modeling approaches, it is estimated that 5-10% of all lung cancer deaths in Canada are caused by exposure to radon in homes over a twenty year period. This makes radon the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths after tobacco smoking. Canada has recently adopted a new standard for radon in homes to match stricter guidelines in the European Union countries and the US. Relatively low cost measures in home construction techniques can minimize radon exposure. 

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Contributors: Mustafa Al-Zoughool, Jan Zielinski

Last Reviewed: June 2nd, 2010

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