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August 7, 1987

Radon in Homes

Author Affiliations

From the Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association, Chicago.

From the Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association, Chicago.

JAMA. 1987;258(5):668-672. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400050110038

Radon 222 and its radioactive decay products can enter buildings and, through inhalation, expose the inhabitants' pulmonary tissues to ionizing radiation. Studies of radon levels in the United States indicate that variations of 100-fold or greater exist among private dwellings. In one region, 55% of homes had levels exceeding 4 pCi/L (0.15 Bq/L), which is the guidance level recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Ventilation and tightness of construction are important determinants of radon levels. In some instances, fans or heat exchangers can reduce excessive concentrations, but in others more elaborate remedial measures may be required. Physicians may obtain information about radon through Environmental Protection Agency regional offices and state radiation control programs. The risk of radiogenic cancer is believed to increase with exposure to ionizing radiation. According to some estimates, concentrations of radon decay products in US homes could be responsible for several thousand cases of lung cancer per year. Studies of radon levels in representative buildings and guidelines are needed to ensure safe, effective, and cost-effective counter-measures. Architects, contractors, designers, building code administrators, health physicists, and biomedical investigators can help with solutions.

(JAMA 1987;258:668-672)