Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas resulting from the decay of uranium-238, which concentrates in enclosed spaces such as buildings and underground mines, particularly in early uranium mines where it sometimes became a significant hazard before the problem was understood and controlled by increased ventilation. Radon has decay products that are short-lived alpha emitters and deposit on surfaces in the respiratory tract during the passage of breathing air. At high radon levels, this can cause an increased risk of lung cancer, particularly for smokers. (Smoking itself has a very much greater lung cancer effect than radon.) People everywhere are typically exposed to around mSv/yr, and often up to 3 mSv/yr, due to radon (mainly from inhalation in their homes) without apparent ill-effect d . Where deemed necessary, radon levels in buildings and mines can be controlled by ventilation, and measures can be taken in new constructions to prevent radon from entering buildings.
WHO is continuing these studies in collaboration with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), in the context of the ‘Stockholm Convention’, an international agreement to reduce emissions of certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including dioxins. A number of actions are being considered to reduce the production of dioxins during incineration and manufacturing processes. WHO and UNEP are undertaking global breast milk surveys, including in many developing countries, to monitor trends in dioxin contamination across the globe and the effectiveness of measures implemented under the Stockholm Convention.