Topics Under Debate: Does Exposure to Residential Radon Increase the Risk of Lung Cancer?
Radiation Protection Dosimetry, Vol. 95, No. 1, pg. 75-81 (2001)
The Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) VI Report The Health Effects of Exposure to Indoor Radon, concluded that radon exposure represents a significant cause of lung cancer which was second only to cigarette smoking. Humans as a species have been exposed to various concentrations of radon for about as long as they have existed on Earth. Certain parts of our planet, because of their geology, have rather high naturally occurring concentrations of radon, and many people have been immersed in those high concentrations with seemingly little deleterious effect.
On the other hand, it is well known that mineworkers exposed to high concentrations of radon do indeed suffer health effects. When modern homes are constructed they are quite well sealed against air infiltration, thus by symmetry they are also resistant to the outflow of gases. In situations where homes are constructed in areas of high natural radon concentrations, it is logical to ask whether residents may or may not experience serious health effects. Our two participants have considered this question and have divergent views. They are both well qualified to present their arguments regarding this topic, and we are fortunate to have them share those views with us in this debate.