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Estimating Rn-induced Lung Cancer in the United States

Lubin Jay H.; Boice, John D. Jr
Health Physics: September 1989
Papers: PDF Only

The proportion of lung cancer deaths attributable to Rn among residents of single-family homes in the U.S. (approximately 70% of the housing stock) is estimated using the log-normal distribution of Rn concentrations proposed by Nero et al. (1986) and the risk model developed by the National Academy of Sciences' BEIR IV Committee. The risk model, together with the exposure distribution, predicts that approximately 14% of lung cancer deaths among such residents (about 13,300 deaths per year, or 10% of all U.S. lung cancer deaths) may be due to indoor Rn exposure. The 95% confidence interval is 7%-25%, or approximately 6600 to 24,000 lung cancer deaths. These estimated attributable risks due to Rn are similar for males and females and for smokers and nonsmokers, but higher baseline risks of lung cancer result in much larger absolute numbers of Rn-attributable cancers among males (approximately 9000) and among smokers (approximately I1,000). Because of the apparent skewness of the exposure distribution, most of the contribution to the attributable risks arises from exposure rates below 148 Bq m−3 (4 pCi L−1), i.e., below the EPA “action level.” As a result, if all exposure rates that exceed 148 Bq m−3 (approximately 8% of homes) were eliminated, the models predict that the total annual lung cancer burden in the U.S. would drop by 4–5%, or by about 3800 lung cancer deaths, in contrast to a maximum reduction of 14% if all indoor Rn exposure above the 1st percentile were eliminated.

©1989Health Physics Society