Oleksii Hlembotskyi
                                ? Credits

                                Radon

                                  Overview

                                  Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It has no smell, colour or taste, and is produced from the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rocks and soil. Radon can also be found in water.

                                  Radon gas escapes easily from the ground into the air. Outdoors, radon quickly dilutes to very low concentrations and is generally not a problem. However, it tends to concentrate in enclosed spaces, such as underground mines, houses, and other buildings. Soil gas infiltration is recognized as the most important source of residential radon. Other sources of radon include building materials and water extracted from wells, but are of less importance.

                                  Radon decays and produces further radioactive particles. As we breathe, the particles are deposited on the cells lining the airways, where they can damage DNA and potentially cause lung cancer.

                                  Radon causes between 3–14% of all lung cancers, depending on the average radon level and the smoking prevalence in a country. Radon is much more likely to cause lung cancer in people who smoke: smokers are 25 times more at risk from radon than non-smokers.

                                  Prevention

                                  For most people, the greatest exposure to radon occurs in the home. The concentration of radon in a home depends on the amount of uranium in the underlying rocks and soils, the construction of the house and the ventilation habits of the inhabitants. 

                                  Radon levels can be measured in an inexpensive and simple manner. 

                                  Well-tested, durable and cost-efficient methods exist for preventing radon in new houses and reducing radon in existing dwellings. Radon prevention should be considered when new houses are built, particularly in radon prone areas. Radon levels in existing homes can be reduced by, for example, improving the ventilation of the house and sealing floors and walls.

                                  In many countries, drinking water is obtained from groundwater sources such as springs and wells. Radon dissolved in drinking-water can be released into indoor air. Normally, a higher radon dose is received from inhaling radon compared with ingestion. Straightforward and effective techniques exist to reduce the concentration of radon in drinking-water supplies by aeration or using special filters.

                                  WHO Response

                                  WHO works with international partners to increase understanding of the effects of radon exposure on health and to promote sound policy options for preventing and mitigating radon exposure. 

                                  WHO supports the development of national radon programmes and activities related to radon policies, radon mitigation and prevention as well as radon risk communication.

                                  84 000 deaths

                                  from lung cancer

                                  due to exposure to radon

                                  Publications

                                  All →
                                  Survey on Radon guidelines, programmes and activities

                                  Under the framework of the WHO International Radon Project, WHO conducted a survey on indoor radon among WHO member states in 2005. This report includes...

                                  WHO handbook on indoor radon: a public health perspective

                                  The handbook book focuses on residential radon exposure from a public health point of view and provides detailed recommendations on reducing health risks...

                                  WHO Housing and health guidelines

                                  Improved housing conditions can save lives, prevent disease, increase quality of life, reduce poverty, and help mitigate climate change. Housing is becoming...

                                  Policies, regulations & legislation promoting healthy housing: a review

                                  The consideration of health in housing policies is vital to improve population health and to avoid unintended consequences. This review of health-promoting...

                                  Healthy environments for healthier populations: Why do they matter, and what can we do?

                                  Globally, 23% of all deaths could be prevented through healthier environments – and scaled-up action is required. This document presents an overview...

                                  Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks

                                  The main message emerging from this new comprehensive global assessment is that premature death and disease can be prevented through healthier...

                                  Management of radioactivity in drinking-water

                                  Chapter 9 of the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (GDWQ) provides guidance related to radiological aspects of drinking-water. Management...

                                  Guidelines for drinking-water quality, 4th edition

                                  The primary purpose of the Guidelines for drinking-water quality is the protection of public health. The Guidelines provide the recommendations of...

                                  Joint publications

                                  This document has been prepared by the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety (IACRS) to summarize its current understanding of approaches for the...

                                  This Safety Report draws on the requirements of international standards and the recommendations of international organizations as well as on the scientific...

                                  This publication is the new edition of the International Basic Safety Standards. It has been extensively revised and updated to take account of the latest...

                                  This publication is the new edition of the International Basic Safety Standards. It has been extensively revised and updated to take account of the latest...

                                  Cover Monograph 61

                                  This publication represents the views and expert opinions of an IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, which met in Lyon,...

                                  This monograph evaluates the evidence for carcinogenicity of ionizing radiation from internally deposited radionuclides. The radionuclides considered in...

                                  Cover IARC monograph 121

                                  It is hoped that this volume, by compiling the knowledge accumulated through several decades of cancer research, will stimulate cancer prevention activities...

                                  Multimedia

                                  Related health topics