Thursday, April 9, 2009

Smokers Beware of Radon

Although radon may not be as dangerous as some people believe it to be, combined with cigarette smoking, it can be lethal. In the mid 1990’s, 22,000 people died of lung cancer per year. About 14% of these deaths were related to radon exposure indoors. 90% of the people exposed to the radon were also smokers. This led the U.S. National Research Council to conclude that although radon is dangerous under any conditions of exposure, it’s especially dangerous if someone smokes in addition to this exposure. Radon is detected through home test systems that identify large amounts of radon in the basement. Once the radon is revealed, homeowners can either seal off their basement from the rest of the house or re-route the air circulation in their house. Only about 7% of houses in America actually contain high levels of radon. Often times, homeowners in America never notice the radon in their homes since Americans move homes so frequently. Likewise, once they discover the radon they are more likely to move anyways rather than do anything to stop/prevent the problem.
In my opinion, since you never know when you are or are not going to be exposed to radon, more or less you should just not smoke! Only 14% of the deaths of lung cancer were related to radon. Thus we can consider the possible explanation that the remaining percent of people with lung cancer must have contracted it some other way, for instance, through smoking. Another curious thought is: how do scientists know if someone has been exposed to radon or not? Once someone has died, where is the proof that a person was or was not exposed to radon? It’s not as if a track record of homes with radon follows a person around through the duration of his/her life. Also, what about people who were exposed to radon but had no effects from it? The people who were exposed to radon and never suffered a consequence would go completely under the radar as far as exposure. Therefore, while some scientists can easily say and prove that 90% of people who died of radon exposure also smoked, what about the amount of people who smoked and were exposed to radon poisoning but never developed any problems? Or even the people who were exposed to radon alone also never developed any sort of conditions? Therefore, based on these questions that have been left open, further research needs to be conducted in order to study the correlation between being medically affected by radon and smoking.

Baird, Colin. “Is radon dangerous to our health?” Chemistry In Your Life: Second Edition. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York. 2006. P. 631

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