Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Radon

Here's an interesting question from AK:

We're selling our house, and the radon test came back at 3 pCi/L. The buyer suggested he wanted money to mitigate this level and we told him he could hold his breath for free.

Thought it would be interesting to get some discussion on radon and lung cancer risk. Why did the EPA choose 4 pCi/L as their action level? Is it reasonable to mitigate for a level of 3? I thought this was a good article to start with: Darby S. BMJ. 2005 Jan 29;330(7485):223.

Also, does anyone have any good articles on perception of risk or communicating risk?

7 comments - CLICK HERE to read & add your own!:

Baleeiro said...

Very cool question. Radon seems to get more press from the media than from us in pulmonary. It seems that a lot of the older data (similar to coal lung or asbestos) in uranium miners inflated the direct risk of lung cancer because most of them smoked and there is sinergy between radon and smoking.
My understanding from the Darby trial is that there is a linear correlation with radon and lung Ca that is important in epidemiologic terms (if you get enough people exposed, you will get some extra cases) but unclear in individual terms.
Your question about perceived risk is great: in the Darby study they suggest that radon exposure could be responsible for up to 2 percent of lung cancer deaths in Europe. Is that too much? In terms of public health, isn't smoking much much worse (with >90% to 2% of lung Ca cases)? And yet your house would be more devalued for radon than if you had smoked in it for 20 years...

Jeff H said...

Interesting question, although I have never paid much attention to radon as a major risk factor for lung cancer. Maybe it's worth checking for exposures (out of curiosity) for those patient who are minimal (or never) smokers. Although, as Carlos mentioned, most of these patients have a history of significant second hand smoke exposure.

As to your potential buyer, you can always suggest that they start smoking, and that will obviate any attributable risk of lung cancer due to the radon levels in your home!

AK said...

I think the authors overstate the case by citing radon as the cause of 2% of all cancer death and 9% of all lung cancer death in Europe. They base these estimates by extrapolating from their own calculations of risk in the article.

I thought the most useful info was the linear increase in lifetime risk of lung cancer death as radon levels rise: the risk increases somewhere between 3-16% for every 2.7 pCi/L of radon. The increase has to be considered relative to the low baseline risk for a nonsmoker. The authors assume the worst case (16% increase per 2.7 pCi/L). For lifetime nonsmokers exposed to radon levels of 0, 2.7, 10.8, and 21.6 pCi/L the corresponding risk of dying from lung cancer by age 75 would be 0.41%, 0.47%, 0.67%, and 0.93%. Among pack-a-day cigarette smokers, those risks would range from 10 to 22%.

So, radon is bad, but cigarettes are really, really bad.

Arenberg said...

Its nearly impossible to mitigate a level that is already that low.

Arenberg said...

Jeff, I should add that we just checked ours because we are finishing our basement, so I did a lot of reading about this. There is no way in hell I would pay to have a radon professional come in and place a radon pipe in the sump for $1,200 for a Radon level of 3. Your buyer is being foolish.

Mike L said...

All of this conversation is very useful, but remember the bottom line...selling your house.

As the times are currently a "buyers market", I wonder the utility in standing on principle and not arranging for mitigation.

It would be a shame to void the sale on this contingency for $1200. Offer to split it, have the agent assume some of the cost, or stand more firm on other areas that are more expensive.

Just a thought.

Randy said...

IT it so sad that so many people resonded to your question that had and have no clue of what they are speaking. Radon or platonium 222 KILLS it does not make you sick it does not give you a headake or a sick stomach, It KILLS YOU. There is no cure, you just die. Please do your proper reseach. Radon once breathed in your lungs, mutates your DNA there fore no drugs known to man or kemo will work so you DIE. As for not paying $1200 as one of your responders wrote, good the undertaker will only charge $10000 to put him 6 feet under. As for the person that wrote you can't get the level below 3 WRONG AGAIN. we almost always achieve levels below 2. usually below 1. Radon kills but Smoking magnifies that number by 37 times. It is your life and you can die any way you want. My Father died from Radon lung Cancer and believe me you go fast and you go in PAIN.. To me $1200 is preaty cheep and I would gladly pay that to have my Dad back!