Radon update: Facts concerning environmental radon: Levels, mitigation strategies, dosimetry, effects and guidelines

A. B. Brill, D. V. Becker, K. Donahoe, S. J. Goldsmith, B. Greenspan, K. Kase, H. Royal, E. B. Silberstein, E. W. Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The risk from environmental radon levels is not higher now than in the past, when residential exposures were not considered to be a significant health hazard. The majority of the radon dose is not from radon itself, but from short-lived alpha-emitting radon daughters, most notably 218Po (T( 1/2 ) 3 min) and 214Po (T( 1/2 ) 0.164 msec) along with beta particles from 214Bi (T( 1/2 ) 19.7 min). Radon gas can penetrate homes from many sources and in various fashions. Measuring radon in homes is simple and relatively inexpensive and may be accomplished in a variety of ways. Although it is not possible to radon-proof a house, it is possible to reduce the level. In high radon areas, if the average level is higher than 4-8 pCi/liter (NCRP recommended level is 8 pCi/liter; EPA recommended level is 4 pCi/liter), appropriate action is advised. The shape of the dose response curves for miners exposed to alpha-emitting particles in the workplace is consistent with current biologic knowledge. It is linear in the low dose range and saturates in the high dose range. No detectable increase in lung cancer frequency is seen in the lowest exposed miners (those with exposures < 120 WLM, the relevant dose interval for most homes). Evidence for a health effect from radon exposure is based on data from animal studies and epidemiologic studies of mines. Extensive radiobiologic data predict a linear dose-response curve in the low dose region due to poor biological repair mechanisms for the high density of ionizing events that alpha particles create. However, no compelling evidence for increased cancer risks has yet been demonstrated from 'acceptable' levels (<4-8 pCi/liter).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-385
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • environmental radiation
  • radon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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