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University of Iowa News Release

May 5, 2006

Journal On Landmark Radon Exposure Studies Co-edited By UI Researcher

A major milestone for research into the link between residential radon exposure and lung cancer was marked by the publication of the April 9, 2006 edition of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, co-edited by University of Iowa researcher R. William Field, Ph.D., associate professor of occupational and environmental health and epidemiology.

The special edition includes the results from a pooling of all the large-scale residential radon and lung cancer case-control studies performed in North America. The pooled analyses indicate that prolonged residential radon exposure represents a major environmental health risk.

A radioactive, invisible, odorless gas that comes from the decay of naturally occurring uranium in the earth's soil, radon can accumulate in enclosed areas, such as homes, schools and office buildings. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States with an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year related to radon exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The fact that a demonstrated lung carcinogen is present in a large number of homes raises a serious public health concern," Field said. "Collectively, the results from the seven studies provide direct evidence of a positive association between residential radon exposure and lung cancer risk."

The special edition of the journal also was co-edited by Jan M. Zielinski, Ph.D., a research scientist with Health Canada and a faculty member at the University of Ottawa.

The issue contains an introduction that traces the evolution of the epidemiologic evidence of increased lung cancer risk first observed in studies of underground miners occupationally exposed to radon, to more recent case-control studies of residential radon and lung cancer. The second section includes a combined analysis of the seven large-scale case control studies conducted in North America, a detailed overview of the North American residential radon studies and the major findings paper for the Connecticut and Utah/Southern Idaho study, the most recent study.

The third section, Radon Risk Assessment, examines exposure measurement error, radon dosimetry and epidemiologic methods. The fourth section includes reports on two recent workshops sponsored by Health Canada and the World Health Organization, respectively, both of which address the important topic of residential radon risk management.

As for future research, Field noted that datasets from the North American and European residential radon studies are currently being merged in an ongoing global combined analysis. The global pooling will also include data from two studies performed in China.

"This collaborative effort between the North American and European investigative teams will provide the most comprehensive direct assessment of residential radon lung cancer risks possible based on currently available epidemiologic data," Field said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

MEDIA CONTACT: Debra Venzke, 319-335-9647, debra-venzke@uiowa.edu

PHOTO: A Web-quality photo of Dr. Field is available at http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/academics/faculty/r_william_field.html. For a 300 dpi image, send an email request to debra-venzke@uiowa.edu.