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[OCT. 27, 2006]  The following fact sheet on radon gas, aka "the silent killer," was compiled by Gloria Linnertz of Waterloo.

1. Radon gas is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Overall, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. --EPA

2. Radon is a radioactive gas that is found in soil and rock in all parts of the United States. Radon gas is invisible, odorless and tasteless. Radon is found in all types of buildings. It seeps in through drains, cracks, and other holes or openings in the foundation. --EPA

3. Radon is formed by the decay of uranium, which is a natural process. Radon gas escapes easily from the ground into the air and emits radiation called alpha particles, also called "radon daughters." These particles are electrically charged and attach to aerosols, dust, smoke and other particles in the air we breathe. As a result, radon progeny may be deposited on the cells lining the airways, where alpha particles can damage the DNA and cause lung cancer. --International Radon Project, June 22, 2005, conducted by the World Health Organization

4. A level of 4 picocuries per liter of air has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as the level at which remedial action should be taken. --American Lung Association (Even at that, 4 pCi/L is equal to 100 X-rays.)

5. Studies by the Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety found that 46 percent of the homes that were tested in Monroe County and 14 percent of the homes in Randolph County had indoor radon levels of 4 pCi/L or greater. --IDNS

6. Bill Norman, an Illinois licensed radon measurement professional, says that the test data shows that slightly over 50 percent of the homes tested in St. Clair and Monroe County showed radon levels of 4.0 pCi/L or more -- the level at which the problem needs to be fixed. --Bill Norman, Columbia, Ill.

7. The national indoor average is 1.3; the national outdoor average is 0.4. --Bill Norman, Columbia, Ill.

8. Testing is the only way to determine the radon level in your home. --EPA

9. Inhaling indoor air containing radon over a period of years can increase your risk of getting lung cancer. If you are a smoker or a former smoker, the risk of getting lung cancer from radon is even greater -- up to 25 percent greater. --EPA

10. On Jan. 13, 2005, U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carniona warned the American public about the risks of breathing indoor radon, by issuing a national health advisory. "Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country," Carmona said. "It's important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon gas can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well-established venting techniques."

11. A national public service announcement that was released to television stations across America in January, which was National Radon Action Month, is reinforcing this recently updated health advisory. In the television spot, the camera scans a neighborhood with rooftop banners that remind the occupants of the importance of testing their homes for radon. The television announcement can be viewed at 

12. Americans spend between 85 percent and 95 percent of their time indoors.

13. It is possible for one home to have elevated levels of radon while a neighboring home does not. Testing is the only way to determine levels of radon in a structure. --American Lung Association

14. We now have direct evidence that prolonged residential radon is one of our leading public health risks and a major cause of cancer. The challenge now is to use this information so that a fire can be lit within people to test and mitigate as well as to promote radon-resistant new construction. Radon is a major environmental carcinogen. --Dr. Bill Field, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Iowa

15. "The North American and European pooling provides unambiguous and direct evidence of an increased lung cancer risk even at residential radon exposure levels below the U.S. EPA action level." --Results from the largest radon studies ever conducted in North America and Europe; Dr. Bill Field, participating in the World Health Organization

16. Rod R Blagojevich, governor of the state of Illinois, proclaimed January 2006 as Radon Action Month in Illinois. He urges all the citizens of our state to test their homes for radon and reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by taking corrective actions when necessary.

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17. From the natural breakdown of uranium comes radium. A radioactive gas called radon is emitted from radium, which is passed up through the soil. This gas, in its original form, is inert -- it can be breathed in and out again with no harmful effects. However, within 30 minutes of the formation of this gas, its natural decay process begins, forming radioactive particles, commonly called "the daughters of radon." The "daughters" are breathed into the lungs; they lodge themselves in the walls of the lungs; and, because of their natural radioactivity, begin to emit bursts of radiation that can destroy cells in the lungs. --Alpha Energy Labs, BRK Brands Inc. First Alert

18. Inhaling indoor air containing radon over a period of years can increase your risk of getting lung cancer. Your chance of getting lung cancer from radon depends on how much radon is in your home and how much time you spend in your home. If you are a smoker or a former smoker, the risk of getting lung cancer from radon is even greater. --The Environmental Law Institute, EPA

19. Dateline: Washington, D.C., March 29, 2006
-- A milestone was reached last night as the first-ever bicameral, bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress declaring lung cancer a major national public health priority and calling for a 50 percent reduction in mortality within nine years. --Lung Cancer Alliance

20. Sen. Clinton noted that lung cancer is killing nearly twice as many women as breast cancer, with a disturbing increase of lung cancer in nonsmoking women. --Lung Cancer Alliance

21. There is only a 15 percent five-year survival rate with lung cancer. --Lung Cancer Alliance

22. Based on a National Academy of Science report, EPA estimates that radon in drinking water causes about 168 cancer deaths per year: 89 percent from lung cancer caused by breathing radon released to the indoor air from water and 11 percent from stomach cancer caused by consuming water containing radon. Because radon in indoor air is the larger health concern, EPA recommends that you first test the air in your home for radon before testing for radon in your drinking water. Radon gas can enter the home through well water. It can be released into the air you breathe when water is used for showering and other household uses. Research suggests that swallowing water with high radon levels may pose risks, too, although risks from swallowing water containing radon are believed to be much lower than those from breathing air containing radon. --The National Safety Council, Washington, D.C.

23. Radon is estimated to cause more deaths due to lung cancer than drunk drivers or falls in the home or drownings or home fires. --EPA

24. If 1,000 people who ever smoked were exposed to 20 pCi/L over numerous years, about 260 people could get lung cancer. --EPA

25. Two University of Iowa researchers ware part of a large multi-center study that provides compelling direct evidence of an association between prolonged residential radon exposure and lung cancer risk. The study, an analysis of data pooled from seven different North American residential radon studies, demonstrates an 11 percent to 21 percent increased lung cancer risk at average resident radon concentrations of approximately 3.0 pCi/L of air during an exposure period of five to 30 years. The lung cancer risk increased with increasing radon exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's current action level for residential radon is 4.0 pCi/L. --University of Iowa Health Care

26. Studies show that Illinois residents are aware of radon but often have an inaccurate understanding of the immediacy of the radon health hazard in their home. The northern half of Illinois is considered by the EPA to have a greater potential for high levels of radon concentrations than the lower portion of the state. Still, high radon levels have been discovered in every county of the state. --University of Illinois Extension

27. You can purchase a test kit at the hardware store or order a free one from the state. In Illinois, call Pat Daniels, 217-782-1325 or e-mail

Illinois Emergency Management Agency
Radon Program
1035 Outer Park Drive
Springfield, IL 62704


28. Currently, lung cancer is under-funded and under-researched. Only $1,829 is spent per lung cancer death, the least amount of cancer research dollars per death for the nation's leading cancer killer. By comparison, breast cancer research receives $23,474 per estimated death, and prostate cancer receives $14,389. --Lung Cancer Alliance

29. Lung cancer kills more people than prostate, colon and breast cancer combined.

[Compiled by Gloria Linnertz, April 8, 2006]

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