Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. As it decays, it creates decay products called radon daughters that stick to dust and other surfaces. If contaminated dust is inhaled, these particles can stick to the lung’s airways and greatly increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is one of the main causes of lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking. It is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Even low levels of radon exposure can lead to increased incidents of cancer if the exposure was over a long time period.
Though lung cancer can be treated, it has the lowest survival rate of any type of cancer. According to the EPA, radon exposure is responsible for approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year and 2,900 are of people who have never smoked.
In 2005, the Surgeon General of the United States issued a Health Advisory warning about the risk of exposure to radon in indoor air. He encouraged Americans to test their homes to find out how much radon they might be breathing and stressed the importance of taking steps to remedy the problem if high radon levels are found.
It has been suggested that radon exposure can help alleviate symptoms of certain health problems such as arthritis. However, the proven risk of radon causing cancer outweighs any potential benefits in alleviating other health problems.