Studies on miners as well as epidemiological studies in the general population show an increased lung cancer risk after exposure to radon and its progeny. The European pooled analysis of indoor radon studies estimates an excess relative risk of 8% (16% after correction for measurement uncertainties) per 100 Bq m−3 indoor radon concentration. Here, we determine the population attributable fraction (PAF) for lung cancer due to residential radon based on this risk estimate for Switzerland and Germany. Based on regionally stratified radon data, the PAF was calculated following the World Health Organization concept of global burden of disease, compared to a realistic baseline radon concentration equal to the outdoor concentration. Lifetable approaches were used taking smoking and sex into account. Measurement error corrections were applied to both risk estimates and the radon distribution. In Switzerland, the average indoor radon concentration is 78 Bq m−3, resulting in a PAF of 8.3%. Therefore, 169 male lung cancer deaths and 62 deaths in women can be attributed to residential radon per year. For Germany, the average indoor radon concentration is 49 Bq m−3, corresponding to a PAF of 5.0% (1,422 male and 474 female deaths annually). In both countries, a large regional variation in the PAF was observed due to regional differences in radon concentrations and population structure. Both calculations show a strong dependency on the risk model used. Risk models based on miner studies result in higher PAF estimates than risk models based on indoor radon studies due to different assumptions regarding exposures received more than 35 years ago. The use of a non-zero baseline radon concentration also contributes to the lower PAF estimates reported here. Although the estimates of the population attributable fraction of residential radon presented here are lower than previously reported estimates, the risk is still one of the most widespread environmental hazards. Radon monitoring and radon reduction programs are therefore important issues for environmental public health management.
* Department of Biometry, Epidemiology and Information Processing, University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany; † WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Veterinary Public Health, University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany; ‡ Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, Berne, Switzerland; § Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany; ** Institute of Epidemiology, gsf-Research Center for Environment and Health, Neuherberg, Germany; †† Institute of Epidemiology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany.
For correspondence contact: Lothar Kreienbrock, Department of Biometry, Epidemiology and Information Processing, University for Veterinary Medicine, Bünteweg 2, 30559 Hannover, Germany, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Manuscript accepted 17 January 2008)