Last month, the American Lung Association took a significant step in the national fight against the second leading risk factor for lung cancer: radon. We've been battling radon for decades, but now we have a renewed commitment under a new plan.
The American Lung Association led the development of the National Radon Action Plan: A Strategy for Saving Lives, working with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and eight other national partners. The plan sets out strategies to drive the changes needed to reduce exposure to radon, a naturally occurring, invisible and odorless gas that causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually.
The National Radon Action Plan identifies four key approaches to reducing radon exposure and 14 specific strategies to achieve them. Our goal is to save lives. If we can reduce radon gas in 5 million high-radon homes, apartments, schools and childcare centers, we can prevent 3,200 lung cancer deaths by 2020. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate lung cancer caused by radon, and the best way to do that is to improve the way we protect people indoors.
To do that, we are focusing first on two key strategies: building in radon testing and systems to reduce radon as standard practice in housing finance and insurance programs; and embedding radon risk reduction requirements in building codes. Our partners are currently meeting with groups, including housing finance and building code developers, to put the initial steps in place.
Never heard of radon? You're not alone. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from natural processes in the ground. Nearly all soils contain uranium, which naturally decays over time to produce radon gas. Radon seeps up from the soil into the air, concentrating in buildings. But because it is invisible and odorless, radon can build up to dangerous levels indoors. Effective measures exist to reduce radon indoors, which can reduce radon-caused lung cancer. You can learn more about how to test your home and what do about high radon levels by visiting Lung.org/radon.
In addition to the Lung Association and federal agencies, the other organizations committing to put these changes in place are the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, the American Society of Home Inspectors, Cancer Survivors Against Radon, the Children's Environmental Health Network, Citizens for Radioactive Radon Reduction the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, the Environmental Law Institute and the National Center for Healthy Housing.
The National Radon Action Plan includes one heartfelt reminder of why this work must take place. The inside cover features a photograph of Elizabeth Hoffman, a woman who developed lung cancer from radon and testified before Congress to urge that a "fresh focus on addressing the radon problem in our country must begin today." Unfortunately, Ms. Hoffman died from her cancer in 2013. Her commitment to saving lives through battling radon, however, continues to inspire us all.