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Promising Practices Brief: Reducing Household Radon

Every year, radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States.

View policies and practices [PDF-2.7MB]

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment and can cause cancer. Unlike better-known home hazards like asbestos and lead-based paint, many people are unaware of the danger of household radon exposure.

Every year, radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 1 of 15 homes in the United States (as many as 1 of 3 homes in some states)—about 7 million homes—have high radon levels.

Radon exposure is thought to cause more deaths each year than other household dangers like falls, fires, and drowning. Each year, lung cancer caused by radon costs about $2 billion in medical care expenses and lost productivity.

Bar chart showing home-related deaths per year in the United States, by cause. Radon causes about 21,000 deaths per year; drunk driving, 17,400 deaths; falls in the home, 8,000 deaths; drowning, 3,900 deaths; and home fires, 2,800 deaths.

*Radon is thought to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA’s 2003 Assessment of Risks of Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003) [PDF-548KB]. The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 1999–2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2002 National Safety Council Report.

Photo of a couple with a small child in front of their house.

What We Know About Radon

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Couple selling their home.

What States Can Do About Radon

States play a vital role in protecting the public from harmful environmental exposures, including household radon. Monitoring the effect of state-based radon policies is vital to establishing best practices and helping states develop policies if they do not already have radon-specific laws.

Screenshot of counties in Illinois with high levels of radon.

Case Study: Reducing Radon in Illinois

70% of counties in the state had average radon levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) action level of 4pCi/L. To address the radon problem, Illinois passed state laws to reduce household radon exposure.

A meeting of partners discussing among each other.

What Comprehensive Cancer Control Programs Can Do About Radon

A state’s comprehensive cancer control plan can align the priorities, goals, and activities of cancer coalitions with practices that reduce radon exposure and the risk of radon-induced lung cancer.