Distribution of airborne radon-222 concentrations in U.S. homes

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Science  21 Nov 1986:
Vol. 234, Issue 4779, pp. 992-997
DOI: 10.1126/science.3775373


Apparently large exposures of the general public to the radioactive decay products of radon-222 present in indoor air have led to systematical appraisal of monitoring data from U.S. single-family homes; several ways of aggregating data were used that take into account differences in sample selection and season of measurements. The resulting distribution of annual-average radon-222 concentrations can be characterized by an arithmetic mean of 1.5 picocurie per liter (55 becquerels per cubic meter) and a long tail with 1 to 3% of homes exceeding 8 picocuries per liter, or by a geometric mean of 0.9 picocurie per liter and a geometric standard deviation of about 2.8. The standard deviation in the means is 15%, estimated from the number and variability of the available data sets, but the total uncertainty is larger because these data may not be representative. Available dose-response data suggest that an average of 1.5 picocuries per liter contributes about 0.3% lifetime risk of lung cancer and that, in the million homes with the highest concentrations, where annual exposures approximate or exceed those received by underground uranium miners, long-term occupants suffer an added lifetime risk of at least 2%, reaching extraordinary values at the highest concentrations observed.