Radon Research Projects

Radon is an odorless, naturally occurring gas. It comes from the radioactive decay of radium in soil and stone and travels through the ground to the surface of the earth. The main source of radon in homes is radon seeping through cracks in foundations or open crawl spaces.

Radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States per year. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. (Smoking alone results in about 160,000 lung cancer deaths annually.) There are no immediate health symptoms from radon exposure.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that radon in homes be mitigated if the radon level in the lowest living area is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air or greater. For every 1,000 people exposed to 4 pCi/L of radon over a lifetime:

  • Approximately 62 could contract lung cancer if they also smoke.
  • Approximately 7 could contract lung cancer if they don’t smoke.
  • As radon levels double, cancer risk doubles.

The average radon level in U.S. homes is 1.3 pCi/L; however, 6% of U.S. homes have a radon level at or above 4 pCi/L.

NCHH is interested in how to assess radon and control exposure in homes most cost effectively and is engaged in research to explore these questions. 

Since achieving healthy housing involves taking a holistic view of the home, some of the research projects listed below may not only be about radon; however, radon is a component of each project.

NCHH’s Radon Research Projects

Building Assessment of Radon/Moisture Reduction with Energy Retrofits (BARRIER)
Building Assessment of Radon/Moisture Reduction with Energy Retrofits Expansion (BARRIER-X)*
Evaluating and Assessing Radon Testing in Housing (EARTH)*
Housing Environmental Aspects Linked To Health with Ventilation (HEALTH-V)

*This is a current research project.

Recommended Reading

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2016). A citizen’s guide to radon: The guide to protecting yourself and your family from radon. EPA402/K-12/002. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Sandel, M., Baeder, A., Bradman, A., Hughes, J., Mitchell, C., Shaughnessy, R., Takaro, T. K., & Jacobs, D. E. (2010 September-October). Housing interventions and control of health-related chemical agents: A review of the evidencePublic Health Management and Practice, 16(5 Suppl), S24-S33.

Field, R. W., Krewski, D., Lubin, J. H., Zielinski, J. M., Alavanja, M., Catalan, V. S., Klotz, J. B., Létourneau, E. G., Lynch, C. F., Lyon, J. L., Sandler, D. P., Schoenberg, J. B., Steck, D. J., Stolwijk, J. A., Weinberg, C., & Wilcox, H. B. (2006, April). An overview of the North American residential radon and lung cancer case-control studiesJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 69(7), 599-631.

Darby, S., Hill, D., Auvinen, A., Barros-Dios, J. M., Baysson, H., Bochicchio, F., Deo, H., Falk, R., Forastiere, F., Hakama, M., Heid, I., Kreienbrock, L., Kreuzer, M., Lagarde, F., Mäkeläinen, I., Muirhead, C., Oberaigner, W., Pershagen, G., Ruano-Ravina, A., Ruosteenoja, E., Rosario, A. S., Tirmarche, M., Tomásek, L., Whitley, E., Wichmann, H. E., & Doll, R. (2005, January 29). Radon in homes and risk of lung cancer: Collaborative analysis of individual data from 13 European case-control studies. British Medical Journal, 330(7485), 223-226.

National Research Council. (1999). Health effects of exposure to radon (BEIR VI). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

World Health Organization. (2009). WHO handbook on indoor radon: A public health perspective. Geneva, SWI: WHO Press.