Radon: Risk and Reality – the facts
Caoimhín P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist
Forensic Applications Consulting Technologies, Inc.
185 Bounty Hunter’s Lane, Bailey CO 80421 Tel: 303 903-7494
A large portion of the general population is under the impression that the scientific community has concluded that exposure to indoor radon conclusively causes cancer, and that there is scientific consensus of this “fact.” Most people are not aware of the fact that there are actually no conclusive studies that have ever demonstrated that exposure to indoor radon, as commonly seen in the overwhelming vast majority of houses, increases the risk of cancer by any amount, and in fact, in the larger and better studies, what we see is that the risk of cancer actually goes down with increasing radon concentrations; to a critical elevated level (not seen in houses) wherein the risk then begins to rise. But those kinds of radon levels where risk increases is virtually never seen in houses.
In fact, even the EPA, buried deep within its risk estimates,3 very clearly reports that it has no evidence that the risk increases, and that even their studies conclude that as radon concentrations in in homes go up, lung cancer rates go down.
The elevated estimates of risk typically reported to the general population have come exclusively from (discredited) mathematical models, supported by a billion dollar radon industry (including academia), for which there is actually very little to no actual scientific support.
The purpose of this discussion is to demonstrate that what people think a scientific paper says, and what the scientific paper may actually say, may in fact be two very different things.
Some visitors who have read our general web discussion on radon wherein we discussion some of these issues, ask about the validity of using risk assessments (mostly by the US EPA), that were published ten or more years ago. Regardless of the date of the risk assessment article, radiation remains the same, human physiology is still the same, and no new profound advances have been made in Euclidean mathematics. As such, although our general web discussion on radon references EPA documents written perhaps ten years ago, the gravamen of the original discussion remains pretty much the same and current with today’s thinking
Some people in the radon industry reference newer articles arguing that newer scientific studies are available that conclusively prove, beyond any doubt, that exposure to residential radon, at concentrations normally seen in houses causes cancer. As an example, one individual, who earns his living by selling radon testing services – and therefore has a vested interest in promoting the notion that indoor radon causes cancer- pointed to three new published studies claiming the new studies prove that residential radon exposure causes cancer. FACTs agreed to provide a critical review of the papers; and we have presented those reviews here.
The reviews presented here have been written for a non-scientific audience. As such, in some cases, the specific language used may lack our normal precision for the sake of clarity. As will be seen, none of the papers support the argument that exposure to radon, as typically seen in residences, poses a demonstrable or significant threat to public health.
The presentation of these papers as a supposed “proof” is a symptom of our society wherein information is presented by people who have never actually read the scientific data or studies, and have no real idea as to what is actually being said by the technical authors. We see this happening more and more, especially in the area of environmental issues such as global warming, wherein the general public has been duped into thinking that there is a scientific basis for the proposition, and that there is a scientific consensus; for which there is no science to support the claims, but there is a lot of emotion created by heavy handed politics. As such, a large fraction of western society presumes that if their government has made a policy regarding the risks of some particular event, then by that very fact, there necessarily must be credibility in the claims.
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