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Cigarette Smoking and Radon Exposure

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. It is responsible for approximately 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Nearly 3,000 of these deaths occur in never-smokers.

For those who are smokers, the risk of developing lung cancer is greatly increased because of the synergistic effects of radon and smoking. Exposed to 1.3 pCi/L (the average indoor radon level) never-smokers have a 2 in 1,000 chance of dying from lung cancer, while smokers exposed to the same level have a 20 in 1,000 chance. The charts below draw comparisons between the risks in smokers versus never-smokers.

Radon Risk in Smokers
Radon Level If 1,000 smokers were exposed to this level over a lifetime*. . . The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to**. . .
20 pCi/L 260 people could get lung cancer 250 times the risk of drowning
10 pCi/L 150 people could get lung cancer 200 times the risk of dying in a house fire
8 pCi/L 120 people could get lung cancer   30 times the risk of dying in a fall
4 pCi/L   62 people could get lung cancer     5 times the risk of dying in a car crash
2 pCi/L   32 people could get lung cancer     6 times the risk of dying from poisoning
1.3 pCi/L   20 people could get lung cancer Average indoor radon level
0.4 pCi/L     3 people could get lung cancer Average outdoor radon level
* Note: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be lower.

 

Radon Risk in Never-Smokers
Radon Level If 1,000 smokers were exposed to this level over a lifetime*. . . The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to**. . .
20 pCi/L 36 people could get lung cancer 35 times the risk of drowning
10 pCi/L 18 people could get lung cancer 20 times the risk of dying in a house fire
8 pCi/L 15 people could get lung cancer   4 times the risk of dying in a fall
4 pCi/L   7 people could get lung cancer The risk of dying in a car crash
2 pCi/L   4 people could get lung cancer The risk of dying from poisoning
1.3 pCi/L   2 people could get lung cancer Average indoor radon level
0.4 pCi/L N/A Average outdoor radon level
* Note: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be higher.

 

* Lifetime risk of lung cancer deaths from Environmental Protection Agency Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes.

** Comparison data calculated using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Reports.