January 27, 2012

Radon Exposure is Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer

Exposure is Leading Cause of Lung Cancer Among Non-Smokers

MADISON-Exposure to radioactive radon gas is the nation's second leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, so state officials are encouraging homeowners to check their home's radon levels during these winter months when people spend more time indoors.

Radon is an odorless radioactive gas that is naturally present in the ground and can enter buildings through their foundations. Both old and newer homes can be susceptible to radon.

"This is a real wake-up call," said Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer. "Radon causes more lung cancer among non-smokers than even second-hand tobacco smoke." An estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused by radon annually among non-smokers, according to reports by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Surgeon General.

"Fortunately this cause of lung cancer is largely preventable and the first step is to test your home," Anderson said. "If an elevated radon level is found, it can be easily and effectively corrected."

Radon concentrations in indoor air can be measured with simple, inexpensive test kits available from hardware stores and local public health agencies. Between 5 and 10 percent of Wisconsin homes have elevated airborne concentrations where people spend the most time, according to state data.

"Radon concentrations vary greatly from home to home," Anderson said. "Any home having contact with the ground should be tested," Anderson said.

More than 60 radon mitigation contractors in Wisconsin are nationally certified and install highly effective soil-depressurization radon control systems. Thousands of systems are installed in existing homes in Wisconsin each year. New construction should include features recommended by the National Association of Home Builders to reduce radon entry.

For comprehensive radon information in Wisconsin, visit To reach local public health agency experts, call 1-888 LOW-RADON (1-888-569-7236).