Radon and your health


A doctor showing a patient a chest x-ray. There are two areas on the x-ray that are highlighted in red.

Are your patients safe from radon?

What is radon?

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that forms naturally in soil. Radon is produced when uranium in the soil breaks down.

Why is radon a concern?

Radon is known to cause lung cancer and it can seep into our homes and workplaces through cracks and openings in floors and crawlspaces. When this happens, radon becomes part of the air we breathe.

Can radon make me sick?

  • When a person is exposed to radon over many years the exposure can increase the risk of lung cancer. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, only smoking causes more lung cancer. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
  • Each year, about 21,000 deaths in the United States are related to radon-caused lung cancer. Risk of lung cancer from radon is almost 10 times higher for smokers compared to those who have never smoked. Smoking and radon together create greater risk of lung cancer than either one alone.

Who is at risk?

  • Anyone exposed to radon over a long period of time is at risk for lung cancer.
  • Smokers are at higher risk of lung cancer. Exposure to a combination of smoking and radon creates a greater risk than either factor alone.
  • While some studies have reported that children are at greater risk than adults for certain types of radiation, currently there is no conclusive data that their radon risk is greater than adults.
  • In Colorado we have high levels of radon in our soils. Data collected on indoor air radon levels indicates that most counties in Colorado have average levels higher than 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), which is the level at which the EPA recommends radon mitigation.

How can risk be reduced?

Radon From a Physician's Perspective