Do You Need to Monitor Your Home for Radon Gas?The EPA Says Yes, but Science Says No
by Bill Sardi by Bill Sardi
I’ve stared curiously at the claim by the Environmental Protection Agency that an estimated 22,000 people die from lung cancer each year in the US. The EPA says that u201Ceveryone should test their homes for one of the leading causes of lung cancer in the country: indoor radon gas.u201D I’ve never known or heard of anyone who came down with lung cancer due to radon gas. When non-smokers develop lung cancer, health authorities don’t go running down to the deceased person’s home to check for radon gas exposure.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is emitted from soils and rocks and is in some water sources. The EPA promotes radon monitoring and sealing of homes to prevent an indoor radon gas hazard. The range of radon gas in US homes varies by a factor of over 1000. The EPA says u201Cthere is no safe level of radon — any exposure poses some risk of cancer.u201D The EPA bases its claim on studies published by the National Academy of Sciences in 1999 which said radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US after cigarette smoking. Radon in drinking water causes an additional 180 deaths a year, estimates the EPA.
Your government in action. Look what the EPA is doing to protect your home from radon gas.
Before you run down and have your home checked for radon gas, you might want to explore this topic a bit more, as I did. The EPA offers a videotape about radon, has various publications about radon for homeowners. But before you buy into the EPA’s propaganda on radon, you might want to examine the following information.
First, before you read information that you may have difficulty analyzing for yourself, I’ve reproduced two US maps. One displays the areas of high radon gas emission. The other is a map displaying areas with high and low cancer rates. Take a look for yourself.
Dark orange and red areas on map above displays counties with high radon gas levels.
Light blue areas in map above displays counties with low cancer rates among US males, which coincides with the areas of high radon gas exposure.
Radium water springs in Misasa, Japan, where cancer rates in surrounding villages are low.
It’s obvious from the maps that high radon gas areas have low rates of cancer.
There are other obvious inconsistencies with the alleged radon gas health threat. First, there is Misasa, Japan. Japanese doctors report that people who live in the Misasa villages in Japan, where there are high radon levels in drinking water, exhibit far lower rates of cancers than people in adjacent villages.
Evacuate Ramsar, Iran?
Water from springs in Ramsar, Iran is rich in radon. The highest environmental levels of radiation in the world have been recorded in Ramsar, but no increase in leukemia or cancer rates have been observed.
Another compelling study is that of the people in Ramsar, Iran, who receive an annual dose of radiation from environmental sources that is 25 times higher than in the USA and 13 times higher than what is permitted for radiation workers in health care and industry. Some health authorities prematurely called for the government of Iran to evacuate Ramsar because of the potential hazard posed by natural radiation exposure.
Ramsar has areas with some of the highest recorded levels of natural radiation measured on the earth. The radioactivity is brought to the surface of the earth by the waters in hot water springs. There are numerous hot springs with different concentrations of radium in Ramsar which are visited by tourists and residents. Yet there is no increased incidence of leukemia or cancer in Ramsar. The concentrations of radium in hot springs in Ramsar are 18 times higher than found in other water sources in the same country. People in Ramsar consume 12 times more radium from vegetables grown in their area than what is considered to be a toxic dose of radiation. The fact that Iranians in Ramsar appear to have lived for generations in relatively good health despite living in an area of high radiation, poor nutrition, lack of availability of physicians and low-population density compared to developed nations, all point to some possible protective effect from low-dose radium and radon gas rather than a health hazard.
Radon gas enters the lungs and should, theoretically, increase the risk of lung disease. Source: Environmental Protection Agency.
B.L. Cohen of the University of Pittsburgh says that despite extensive investigation, the idea that inhalation of low-dose radon products pose a cancer risk appears to be without solid scientific substantiation.
Cohen’s conclusions were recently backed by another study which showed no association between radon gas exposure and the risk for leukemia. With all of the warnings about radon gas issued from the Environmental Protection Agency, where are the dead bodies, the cancer clusters, the ill families in areas of high radon exposure? And there is more evidence that runs contrary to the EPA’s warnings about radon gas.
- A study conducted in Hungary found that medium radon exposure causes lower cancer risk among women younger than 61 years.
- A study of white females, living in 2821 counties in the US, found radon gas exposure actually decreases the risk for lung cancer.
- A suspicion arose among geneticists over mutations on a particular gene in persons exposed to radon, which could potentially lead to leukemia. But subsequent studies have not found a relationship between this gene mutation and radon exposure, nor any elevated rates of leukemia.
- Yet another study compared the amount of natural radiation in Rocky Mountain States which is 3.2 times greater than in Gulf Coast states. Data from the American Cancer Society reveals the overall cancer death rate in Gulf Coast states is actually somewhat higher than Rocky Mountain States.
Researchers concede that the health risks posed by low-dose radiation exposure have been u201Chighly politicized.u201D There is an exaggerated perception of a threat to public health. There is no question that miners exposed to radon experience health risks, but this involves high-dose exposure. The EPA admits it primarily relies upon data from miners in regards to radon hazards. For low doses, the risk estimates are all hypothetical, calculated from data involving high-dose exposure.
The problem with the EPA’s radon gas mortality numbers is that they aren’t a count of dead bodies, they are mathematical extrapolations. If X number of people die from exposure to high dose radiation, then how many would die from chronic exposure to low-dose radiation? The assumption is that low-dose radiation would pose an accumulated risk.
While the EPA continues to warn the public of the potential dangers posed by radon gas, in fact, low-dose radiation appears to be beneficial to human health, simulating the immune system. This is exactly what people contend who regularly attend spas to bathe in radium spring water.
The politically correct answer
A study of females in homes in Iowa, conducted by the University of Iowa, College of Public Health, found that 60 percent of the radon readings in basements of people who developed lung cancer, along with others who did not, were above the US Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for radon. There were hardly any differences in radiation exposure between healthy women and women with lung cancer. But researchers incredulously concluded that u201Cthis indicates that residential radon exposure is a significant cause of lung cancer.u201D Iowa has the highest radon exposure of anywhere in the US. The politically correct answer always preserves everybody’s job. Let’s keep the grant money flowing for more radon risk studies.
Review of radon studies
When researchers at the University of Kansas, School of Medicine reviewed all the published studies on household radon exposure and lung cancer, no conclusive evidence could be found for a link between the disease and radiation. The presumed link between radon and lung cancer was initially based upon a study in Sweden, but subsequent studies elsewhere have not shown a consistent link. Flaws were also found in many radon studies. Few of the studies actually even measured radon exposure. Where radon levels were measured, a relatively small percentage of studies found a statistically significant positive association with lung cancer. Oddly, while some studies report a link between radon and lung cancer, there was no association for lung cancer among houses located near uranium or radium processing waste sites. At best, the association between radon gas and lung cancer is considered weak.
How radon gas gets in your home. Oddly, higher levels of lung disorders have never been reported among pets living in homes where radon levels are high.  Graphic: EPA
The EPA says: u201CAlthough some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.u201D
If you wade through the EPA website carefully you finally find their disclaimer. Says the EPA: u201CThe probability of a radiation-caused cancer or genetic effects is related to the total amount of radiation accumulated by an individual… Based upon current scientific evidence, any exposure to radiation can be harmful or can increase the risk of cancer, however, at very low exposures, the estimated increased in risk is very small.u201D 
There you have it. How small a risk? Radon gas is an imaginary risk at best. Remember what the EPA is doing for you, and your family. Says the EPA, the cost of sealing a home from radon gas buildup generally ranges from $800 to $2,500 (with an average cost of $1,200). And according to the EPA, u201Chundreds of thousands of people have reduced radon levels in their homes.u201D
 Mifune M, Kondo S, Tanooka H, et al, Cancer mortality survey in a spa area (Misasa, Japan) with a high radon background, J Japan Cancer Res 1992: 83: 1.
 Ghiassi-nejad M, Mortazavi SM, Cameron JR, Very high background radiation areas of Ramsar, Iran: preliminary biological studies. Health Physics 2002; 82: 87—93.
 Sohrabi M, Beitollahi MM, Hafezi S, Effective dose to the public from 226Ra in drinking water supplies of Iran. Health Phys. 1999; 77: 150—3.
 Ghiassi-Nejad M, Beitollahi MM, Asefi M, Exposure to (226)Ra from consumption of vegetables in the high level natural radiation area of Ramsar-Iran. J Environ Radioact. 2003; 66: 215—25.
 Cohen BL, Test of the linear-no threshold theory of radiation carcinogenesis for inhaled radon decay products. Health Physics 1995; 68: 157—74.
 Laaurier D, Valenty M, Tirmarche M, Radon exposure and the risk of leukemia: a review of epidemiologic studies, Health Phys. 2001;81:272—88.
 Toth E, Lazar I, Selmeczi D, Lower cancer risk in medium high radon, Pathol Oncol Res 1998; 4: 125—29.
 Bogen KT, Mechanistic model predicts a U-shaped relation of radon exposure to lung cancer risk reflected in combined occupational and US residential data, Hum Exp Toxicol 1998; 17: 691—96.
 Ruttenber AJ, Harrison LT, Baron A, hprt mutant frequencies, nonpulmonary malignancies, and domestic radon exposure: u201Cpostmortemu201D analysis of an interesting hypothesis, Env Mol Mutagen 2001; 37: 7—16.
 Jagger J, Natural background radiation and cancer death in Rocky Mountain states and Gulf Coast states, Healthy Physics 1998; 75: 428—30.
 Kellerer AM, Risk estimates for radiation-induced cancer — the epidemiological evidence, Radiation Environ Biophys 2000; 39: 17—24.
 Balaram P, Mani KS, Low dose radiation — a curse or a boon? Natl Med J India. 1994; 7: 169—72.
 Neuberger JS, Residential radon exposure and lung cancer: an overview of published studies. Cancer Detect Prev. 1991; 15: 435—43.
 Bukowski JA, Wartenberg D, An alternative approach for investigating the carcinogenicity of indoor air pollution: pets as sentinels of environmental cancer risk, Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Dec;105:1312—9.