Smokers Most at Risk from Radon Gas in European Homes
From Environmental News Service, Jan. 3, 2005: Effect of Radon Gas on Smokers Discussed)
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Exposure to radon in homes leads to an increased risk of lung cancer, in particular among smokers, according to a new study of risk from exposure to radon gas in European homes. The first study to examine radon risk to smokers separately from risk to nonsmokers, it found that for any given level of radon, smokers have about 25 times the risk of developing lung cancer as non-smokers.
Radon can also cause lung cancer in non-smokers but the risk is low. Recent ex-smokers were also found to be at higher risk from radon than non-smokers.
The results show that radon in homes is responsible for about 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the European Union each year. This is about nine percent of the total lung cancer deaths in the EU and about two percent of cancer deaths overall.
The risk increases in proportion to the concentration of radon gas in the home and is apparent at concentrations below current remedial action levels used in most European countries.
The study, co-funded by the European Commission, combines information and analysis from 13 smaller case-control studies across Europe covering 7,148 cases of lung cancer and 14,208 controls. The cases studied come from nine European countries.
It is the largest study ever into the effects of radon exposure in European homes. Previous such studies have not been large enough to assess the risks reliably. By comparison, in the United States, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that radon causes 19,000 cancer deaths each year. The "Annual Report on Carcinogens 2000" attributes to radon 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year.