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Controls on Indoor Radon Could Cut Lung Cancer Deaths

Small levels of the natural air pollutant pose a risk

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- By concentrating on the minority of homes with high radon levels, the British government is missing out on a chance to reduce radon-related deaths in homes with lower levels of exposure to the natural air pollutant, according to research published online Jan. 6 in BMJ.

Alastair Gray, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Oxford in Oxford, U.K., analyzed epidemiological data on lung cancer related to indoor radon and smoking as well as information from surveys on radon prevention and remediation efforts.

Radon is linked to approximately 1,100 lung cancer deaths in the United Kingdom annually (3.3 percent of all lung cancer deaths), of which more than 85 percent occur in homes where the concentration of radon is less than 100 becquerels per cubic meter, the investigators found. Active smoking and radon exposure were jointly responsible for most of the deaths, the researchers report. Remediating existing homes that have high levels of radon costs about $54,596 per quality-of-life-year gained and does not reduce lung cancer mortality, but including radon reduction measures in new homes is effective and costs an estimated $16,913 per quality-of-life-year gained, the authors note.

"These conclusions are likely to apply to most developed countries, many with higher mean radon concentrations than the United Kingdom," the authors write.

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