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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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A Bad Mix: Radon and Smoking
20 February 1998 10:00 am
The latest report from the National Research Council (NRC) on the hazards of radon exposure has more bad news for smokers: If you are living in one of the 6% of homes with high levels of this omnipresent radioactive gas, your chances of getting lung cancer skyrocket.
The NRC panel estimates that radon contributes to about 12% of all lung cancer deaths--or 15,000 to 22,000 a year. Of the victims, almost 90% are smokers. Thus, while reducing radon levels in homes would prevent one-third of the casualties, the committee found, avoiding the deadly combination of smoking and radon would prevent almost all of them.
The estimated radon death toll is in line with earlier NRC estimates. "The ballpark is the same, but there's a great deal more certainty," says panel chair Jonathan Samet, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. "We've increased the amount of information by an order of magnitude."
The committee arrived at its conclusions after analyzing 11 studies of 68,000 miners exposed to radon and eight large studies of residential exposure, as well as laboratory studies. They were unable to discern any threshold level of exposure beneath which cancer risk disappears.
Some scientists think the NRC has overestimated the radon toll. "I believe they were carried away by their statistics," says epidemiologist Naomi Harley of New York University Medical Center. The Environmental Protection Agency, which commissioned the report, is not expected to take any action in response to it any time soon.