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Nonsmokers Can Get Preventable Lung Cancer — at Home?


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office are stepping up the call to action to get homes tested for radon, a cancer-causing radioactive gas that claims nearly 20,000 lives each year. Breathing indoor air containing radon can damage lung tissue, leading to cancer. This makes it the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and the leading cause among nonsmokers.


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Radon comes from the surrounding soil and enters homes through foundation cracks, drains and openings. It is an odorless, colorless and invisible gas that can reach harmful levels if trapped indoors. Recent consumer research indicates that up to 80 percent of homes across America still need to be tested for radon. A simple home test is the only way to detect high radon levels and the test can be performed for under $25.


“Many people are not aware that breathing radon causes lung cancer, but the science is strong. That’s why this new media campaign features an advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General,” said EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh.“We know that radon-related deaths can be prevented; no one has to live in a home with high radon levels because virtually any home with a radon problem can be fixed. Our hope is that once people understand this health risk, they will test their homes for radon and fix any problems they find.”


EPA is launching a campaign to inform people about radon and is working with organizations across the country to educate the public on how to protect themselves from radon exposure in their homes. Local government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools, health care providers, radon professionals and other community groups will work together to host events and activities to increase awareness about radon, promote testing and mitigation and advance the use of radon-resistant new construction.

Building Healthy from the Start

EPA believes radon-resistant new construction practices will mitigate the infiltration of radon gas and the high incidence of radon-related illnesses.

Building with radon-resistant construction techniques makes homes safer from radon infiltration. If high radon levels are found at a construction site, the techniques allow for easy and inexpensive installation of mitigation systems, such as fans, for increased radon reduction.

Techniques may vary for different foundations and site requirements, but the basic elements include gas permeable layers, plastic sheeting, sealing and caulking, vent pipes and junction boxes. It is more cost-effective to include radon-resistant techniques while building a home, rather than install them in an existing home. Materials and labor costs for radon-resistant techniques versus retrofitting an existing home is $350 to $500 rather than $800 to $2,500 (a 128 percent to 400 percent savings). These techniques are consistent with state-of-the-art energy-efficient construction.


Based on the most recent home builder survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, 5.8 percent of approximately 1,124,000 single-family detached homes built during 2001 incorporated radon-resistant features, which translates into about 65,000 homes nation-wide.

“EPA’s mid-Atlantic region is proud to support this ambitious national campaign to reduce lung cancer deaths from radon,” said Donald S. Welsh. “Many families in our region are being exposed to deadly radon gas in their homes. We hope that once people see the ads and learn more about the health risk during National Radon Action Month, they will test their homes and correct any problems in existing homes, and consider radon-resistant techniques during new construction.”

The public can get more information on how to obtain test kits and how to find qualified professionals to fix a radon problem by contacting the radon program in their state, available at or by visiting the National Safety Council Web site at .

For more information about radon, visit EPA’s Web site at or contact the radon program in each state, available at . The public can also call the National Safety Council’s Radon Hotlines: (800) SOS-RADON (24 hour recording) or (800) 55-RADON (to speak with a specialist), or (866) 528-3187 (for Spanish speakers).


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HHI is committed to accuracy of content and correcting information that is incomplete or inaccurate. With our broad scope of coverage of healthful indoor environments, and desire to rapidly publish info to benefit the community, mistakes are inevitable. HHI has established an error correction policy to welcome corrections or enhancements to our information. Please help us improve the quality of our content by contacting with corrections or suggestions for improvement. Each contact will receive a respectful reply.

The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


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Nonsmokers Can Get Preventable Lung Cancer — at Home?:  Created on February 12th, 2007.  Last Modified on March 11th, 2014


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About EPA

The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, the EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people. At laboratories located throughout the nation, the agency works to assess environmental conditions and to identify, understand and solve current and future environmental problems.



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