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‘Radon causes lung cancer; some sanitary pads might be harmful’
  • By Park Gi-taek
  • Published 2018.10.18 16:02
  • Updated 2018.10.18 16:02
  • comments 0

“Academics have already proved that radon is one of the causes of lung cancer. It is an environmental carcinogen that needs attention.”

“If the news report about the excessive level of radon in sanitary pads is true, such pads could endanger the health of women who wear them. I’m also worried about the health of workers who manufactured the pads. During manufacturing, dust would have been blown, but workers might have inhaled the dust without being aware of the radon level.”

Those comments came from lung cancer experts at a news conference, hosted by the Korean Association for Lung Cancer (KALC), at a restaurant in central Seoul, Wednesday.

JTBC recently reported that “Daily Habit” sanitary pads contained 1,619 becquerels (Bq) of radon, more than 10 times of the regulatory limit of 149 Bq. Experts told reporters that such pads, if true, could cause cancer.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas produced after several phases of radioactive decay of uranium in the crust rocks. It exists everywhere as a naturally radioactive material. Radon enters indoor space through gaps in the wall from the crust. Inhaling it at a high concentration for a long time can cause lung cancer.

According to the World Health Organization, at an exposure level of 148 Bq of radon, lung cancer incidence stood at 62 per 1,000 smokers and seven per 1,000 non-smokers.

Myong Jun-pyo, a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at Catholic University of Korea’s College of Medicine, speaks during a news conference in Seoul, Wednesday.

Myong Jun-pyo, a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at Catholic University of Korea’s College of Medicine, said the higher the concentration of radon, the higher the incidence of lung cancer. Myong cited his research on “lung cancer in non-smoking females and the exposure of radon in indoor air.”

The study analyzed the cause of lung cancer in non-smoking women by utilizing big data of the National Health Insurance Service in 2017.

For 12 years, researchers observed 6 million non-smoking females who had general health checkups from 2003 to 2004. They found that about 45,000 people developed lung cancer. Then, the researchers analyzed their regional distribution in association with a “radon map across the country” (from 2015 to 2016).

“Non-smokers can get lung cancer. Separately from smoking, radon is a major risk factor in developing lung cancer for non-smoking women,” Myong said. “As radon exposure in indoor air was higher in the past than now, they must have been exposed to radon in the past, and that seems to have contributed to lung cancer.”

The professor emphasized that the results of the study showed that people should make efforts to reduce exposure to daily radiation of radon, to prevent lung cancer for non-smoking women.

“Most radon comes into indoor spaces from the crust (80-90 percent), other building materials (2-5 percent), and groundwater (1 percent),” Myong said. “To prevent radon from coming in, people should fill the gaps in the wall and frequently open the windows to ventilate air.”

KALC Chairman Lee Kye-young also said, “Radon has already been found to be the cause of lung cancer.”

Noting that Americans measure radon levels when purchasing a home, Lee said, “We particularly worry about the exposure of radon to children.”


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