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ACUTE EXPOSURE INFORMATION
- Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. The main concern after exposure to radon and its daughters (decay products) exposure concern is the development of lung cancer. An increased risk of lung cancer has been clearly documented in uranium and certain other miners exposed to radon and its daughters, as well as in experimental animals.
- Radon and its daughters are absorbed into the lungs by inhalation after becoming attached to microscopic particles of environmental airborne dust. Inhaled dust particles with attached radon daughters are distributed in the lungs, where they may stick to the moist bronchial epithelial lining.
- Mucociliary clearance may not be rapid enough to prevent ionizing radiation (alpha particles) released from the decay of the radon daughters, polonium-218 and polonium-214, from affecting several types of pulmonary cells and eventually leading to cancerous transformation.
- Uranium ore has particularly high concentrations of radium. Other types of ore (zinc, lead, fluorospar, tin, niobium, and iron) containing uranium and radium can also release radon and its daughters. When ventilation is not adequate, miners can be at risk for an increased incidence of lung tumors. Cutting uranium metal may release dust containing radon and its daughters.
- Radon exposure is thought to be an important environmental cause of death. The US EPA and the National Cancer Institute estimate that there are 15,000 deaths annually in the US from radon induced lung cancer. Of the 164,100 cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year, approximately 14% are attributable to radon exposure. After cigarette smoking, indoor radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
- Smokers are at greater risk for the development of lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers is 10 times that of non-smokers.
- Lifetime exposure to the EPA recommended guideline of 4 pCi/L is estimated to pose a 1-5% risk for developing lung cancer depending if a person is a nonsmoker or smoker.
- Radon is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and not irritating; there is no way to detect its presence other than sampling and laboratory measurement.
- The dose of ionizing radiation received by the bronchial epithelium in the general population from radon is far in excess of the dose received by any other organs from natural background radiation.
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