[ RadSafe ] Radon and Never Smokers vs Passive Smokers

Jim Otton jkotton at usgs.gov
Thu Aug 2 12:13:26 CDT 2012

This item from another list may be of interest to Radsafe.

Jim Otton


From: International Web Resource for Radon Professionals [mailto:RADONPROFESSIONALS at LIST.UIOWA.EDU] On Behalf Of John
Sent: Thursday, August 02, 2012 9:48 AM
Subject: [RNPROF] Never Smokers vs Passive Smokers


Wikipedia states:

Radon and passive smoking

An important question is if also passive smoking can cause a similar synergy effect with residential radon. This has been insufficiently studied. The basic data for the European pooling study makes it impossible to exclude that such synergy effect is an explanation for the (very limited) increase in the risk from radon that was stated for non-smokers.

A study[111] from 2001, which included 436 cases (never smokers who had lung cancer), and a control group (1649 never smokers) showed that exposure to radon increased the risk of lung cancer in never smokers. But the group that had been exposed to passive smoking at home appeared to bear the entire risk increase, while those who were not exposed to passive smoking did not show any increased risk with increasing radon level.

This result needs confirmation by additional studies. Despite the startling results from 2001, new studies seem not to have been implemented.

The abstract for this study is:

Residential radon and lung cancer among never-smokers in Sweden.

Lagarde F, Axelsson G, Damber L, Mellander H, Nyberg F, Pershagen G.


Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


In this study, we attempted to reduce existing uncertainty about the relative risk of lung cancer from residential radon exposure among never-smokers. Comprehensive measurements of domestic radon were performed for 258 never-smoking lung cancer cases and 487 never-smoking controls from five Swedish case-control studies. With additional never-smokers from a previous case-control study of lung cancer and residential radon exposure in Sweden, a total of 436 never-smoking lung cancer cases diagnosed in Sweden between 1980 and 1995 and 1,649 never-smoking controls were included. The relative risks (with 95% confidence intervals in parentheses) of lung cancer in relation to categories of time-weighted average domestic radon concentration during three decades, delimited by cutpoints at 50, 80, and 140 Bq m(-3), were 1.08 (0.8--1.5), 1.18 (0.9--1.6), and 1.44 (1.0--2.1), respectively, with average radon concentrations below 50 Bq m(-3) used as reference category and with adjustment for other risk factors. The data suggested that among never-smokers residential radon exposure may be more harmful for those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Overall, an excess relative risk of 10% per 100 Bq m(-3) average radon concentration was estimated, which is similar to the summary effect estimate for all subjects in the main residential radon studies to date.

If I’ve read correctly, Wiki says if you never smoke and are not around second hand smoke, don’t worry about Radon!  I’ve not found the full study.  What do you think?  Many people do their research by reading Wiki. My initial reaction is that the conclusion suggested by Wiki is premature  & misleading.

 John Mallon


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