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Radon Health Risks

Radon comes from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas that enters buildings from cracks in solid floors or walls, construction joints, gaps in suspended floors, as well as around service pipes, cavities inside walls, and the water supply.

Radon can be found in any building, but homes are the most concerning since that’s where families spend the most time.

Radon is Prevalent in Boulder County

Radon is prevalent in Colorado and in Boulder County. The EPA has ranked Boulder County as "Zone 1," which means the average house will likely exceed the EPA's action level of 4.0 pCi/L.

Radon Can Cause Cancer

Radon is radiation, and radiation can cause cancer. Like all radioactive substances, radon emits high-energy radioactive particles that can bombard the cells in the body. Small amounts of radiation are generally harmless, which is why an occasional x-ray should not be a problem. But larger or long-term doses of radiation can damage DNA, the genetic material in cells. If the DNA in lung cells get too damaged, the cells can become cancerous.

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. It is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year and about $2 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity. The Iowa Radon Lung Cancer Study tracked nearly 1,000 women who had lived in their homes more than 20 years. The results of the case-control study (after adjusting for age, smoking, and other factors) indicated that a 20-year exposure of radon levels at the EPA guideline of 4.0 pCi/L yielded an increased lung cancer risk of 50%.

radon alpha particles

This picture shows a plastic chip from a passive radon test. This piece of plastic is magnified only 100 times and shows the damage to the plastic as a result of exposure to alpha particles after just 3 months exposure at 4 pCi/L.

Radon & Smoking Produce a Synergistic Effect

The risk of lung cancer from radon exposure is estimated to be approximately 10 -15 times greater for persons who smoke cigarettes in comparison with those who have never smoked. Get help quitting tobacco.

 Related Links


Contacts

Air Quality Program

Main: 303-441-1564
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www.BoulderCountyAir.org

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