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What are the Health Risks from Radon Exposure?

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

When investigating the health risks radon exposure has on our bodies, we are actually investigating the impact that radon decay products have when inhaled.

Radon begins with the decay of uranium, which in turn produces radium, and after continued decay produces radon. As this radon decays, it produces radon decay products, including polonium-218, lead-214, bismuth-214, and polonium-214. These radon decay products, like the uranium and radium before them, are radioactive. Polonium-218 and polonium-214 emit alpha particles, and as such, take the highest toll on our health by causing damage if inhaled.

The alpha particles, emitted by the radon decay products, may adhere to the tissue in the lungs causing damage to the cells by radiation. If the DNA that is damaged by the irradiation replicates, it may cause lung cancer.

How likely someone is to develop adverse health effects from radon decay products is dependent on how long they are exposed to radon decay products and what concentration they are exposed to. Additionally, exposure to other lung damaging carcinogens such as smoke, can increase the risk of health issues.

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