Skip to main content.

Waiting to exhale: Radon cancer rates in the Sierra Nevada

Waiting to exhale: Radon cancer rates in the Sierra Nevada

Picture of Roseann Langlois

Exposure to radon in the home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In South Lake Tahoe, more than half of the homes contain toxic levels of the colorless, odorless and tasteless gas.

The dangers and causes of radon in our region are well known. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is also naturally occurring throughout our area due to the granite that dominates our landscape.

The school district on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to address the elevated levels of radon in an elementary school at the demand of parents.

Much has been written about the dangers of local levels of radon, but the actual, measurable effects of radon in our local environment have gone unreported.

It is also unknown how many people in the region have been diagnosed with, or have died from, radon-related cancer.

Are there higher lung cancer rates in El Dorado and Douglas counties, or is it the same as other areas that have safe levels of radon?

For my California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship, I'll be examining death certificates and the California Cancer Registry and interviewing doctors, patients and surviving family members to put a face on the effects of radon in our environment.

If the lung cancer rates are in line with other areas that have safe levels of radon, it calls into question the companies that are making money off radon testing kits and removing the gas in homes. Is it all scare tactics?


Picture of

very interesting. I would love to read the results of your research.

Picture of

Radon is very dangerous and it is true that it causes cancer.

Picture of

You got me when you said that one of the leading causes of lung cancer is the radon gas. My husband has been telling me about his hunch that our house has a high level of radon. Our house was actually a gift from his parents, and it has never been serviced. He has weak lungs, so I'll be sure to hire a radon mitigation company as soon as possible.

Picture of

What were the results of your research? I've been monitoring my new place in Tahoe and levels are quite high on average 2-3x EPA recommended limits. Would love to have conversation.

Leave A Comment


The pandemic has thrown into brutal relief the extent to which the U.S. health care system produces worse outcomes for patients of color. And yet there has been scant focus on one of the biggest drivers of structural racism in health care: How doctors and hospitals are paid. In this webinar, we’ll highlight the ways in which the health care system’s focus on money and good grades is shortchanging the health of communities of color. Sign-up here!

U.S. children and teens have struggled with increasing rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal behavior for much of the past decade. Join us as we explore the systemic causes and policy failures that have accelerated the crisis and its inequitable impact, as well as promising community-driven approaches and evidence-based practices. The webinar will provide fresh ideas for reporting on the mental health of youth and investigating the systems and services. Sign-up here!

The USC Center for Health Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is seeking two Engagement Editors and a social media consultant to join its team. Learn more about the positions and apply.


Follow Us



CHJ Icon