Radon Research Series

Human behaviour can profoundly impact exposure to environmental toxins that increase cancer risk, and radon gas within residential properties is no exception. At the most straightforward level, behaviours such as window opening habits and time spent outdoors can drastically alter individuals’ radon exposure (and thus lung cancer risk) over a lifetime, irrespective of the latent radon levels in a given property or region.

From a radon-induced lung cancer risk reduction perspective, understanding behaviour is as important as understanding radon levels within buildings. However, the impact of inter-individual psychology on different health-seeking behaviours (that modify radon exposure) needs to be better understood. As part of the Evict Radon National Study, we are studying how different behaviours concerning radon awareness, testing and mitigation work together to significantly alter residential radon exposure for individuals.

Among people reporting unsafe radon exposure, 35% mitigated quickly, 31% displayed delaying behaviour, 28% reported economic impediments, and 6% declined action. Radon testing or mitigation-delaying behaviour(s) corresponded to significantly increased total excess lung irradiation, which differed by demographics.

Those who desired to mitigate their high radon levels but could not do so for economic reasons were generally younger, often with young families.

This project has identified a clear need for helping younger individuals (or anyone of lower socioeconomic status) to reduce radon, as it is at these younger ages that radon exposure prevention is the most critical.

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