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Who Is Most At Risk?

Radon can cause lung cancer in any person, but it is believed that the risks increase if a person is exposed to radon for a longer period of time, and/or if they are exposed to greater concentrations. It is also believed that the combination of cigarette smoking and exposure to radon results in a synergistic (significantly greater because of the combination) risk than would result from either factor alone.
Most of the individuals who get lung cancers attributable to radon have been smokers. According to a study conducted by the EPA, a non-smoking person exposed to between 10 and 20 picocuries of radon has a risk of lung cancer comparable to someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.
Despite the fact that a home may feel safe, it is possible for radon concentrations in that home to exceed the concentrations in an underground mine. Some American homes have radon levels so high that the people in the homes receive as large a dose of radiation as did the people living in the vicinity of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant in 1986, the year of the disaster (Kerr, R.A. Indoor radon: the deadliest pollutant. Science 240:606-608,1989).
Radon will not irritate your eyes, nose or skin, nor does it have any immediate effect on your breathing. Symptoms usually appear five to twenty years after initial exposure. These symptoms can include coughing up blood, shortness of breath, or unexplained weight loss. See your physician if you develop any of these symptoms.