J Korean Med Assoc.  2019 Jul;62(7):376-382. 10.5124/jkma.2019.62.7.376.

Health effects and consultations about radon exposure

  • 1National Radiation Emergency Medical Center, Korea Institute of Radiological & Medical Sciences, Seoul, Korea. ywjin@kirams.re.kr
  • 2Dongnam Radiation Emergency Medical Center, Dongnam Institute of Radiological & Medical Sciences, Busan, Korea.


Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive material classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and is known to be the factor with the second-greatest impact on lung cancer after smoking. An association between radon and lung cancer has consistently been reported in epidemiological studies on mine workers and residents of homes with indoor radon exposure. However, associations between radon and other diseases, such as leukemia and thyroid cancer, have yet to be confirmed due to a lack of consistent research findings and biological relevance. Such associations are unlikely because there is a very low likelihood that organs other than the lungs are exposed to radon upon inhalation due to the short half-life of radon and its progeny and the low permeability of alpha rays. In spring 2018, the radon bed mattress incident occurred, leading to a spike of concern and interest among the public regarding the health effects of radiation exposure. This paper presents a description of radon exposure and its health effects based on the current literature and provides practical information based on health consultations experienced following the 2018 radon mattress incident.


Radon; Alpha particles; Lung neoplasms; Risk; Radiation
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