Probably the most dangerous part of radon gas is you cannot see it. You also cannot smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. As the only gas in the decay chains of radioactive heavy metals, radon and its floating radioactive products can easily get into human body by inhalation. Whenever you breathe in air containing radon, it increases your risk of getting lung cancer. The National Academy of Sciences and the Environment Protection Agency (2003) estimate that in the U.S., radon in homes causes 21,100 lung cancer deaths each year.
Radiation is called the "complete carcinogen" because, unlike chemical carcinogens, it alone can initiate, promote and propagate cancer. The primary site of radioactive exposure to most people is their home. The average person receives a higher radiation dose from radon at home than from all other natural or man-made sources combined.
Radon is a proven and very potent "Class A" carcinogen. Safety limits on toxins or carcinogens in food or water are set at levels thousand times less lethal than what is the risk from radon in an average American home. "Radon in residential homes causes more deaths than fires, drowning and airplane crashes combined." (EPA)
The lung cancer crisis
After smoking, "radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer." (Surgeon General) Among non-smokers, radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer deaths beating out second hand smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of all Americans, both men and women, claiming 160,000 lives every year - more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer combined. Over 171,000 cases of new lung cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
The leading three causes of cancer deaths Men & Women:
Lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers – its 5-year survival rate is only 10 to 14 percent. By the time people develop symptoms (shortness of breath, coughing, bloody sputum), the cancer has grown to the size of an orange or has spread to other organs. While the death rates for many types of cancer have been declining during the last 60 years, the age-adjusted incidence and mortality rates for lung cancer have been rising.
There is a lung cancer crisis, particularly among women. Lung cancer deaths have increased by 20% among men during the past two decades but by 150% among women, and in the 1990's alone, lung cancer deaths of white females have increased 60%.