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How to save $10 billion

Radon is a radioactive gas that is generally believed to cause lung cancer, even in low concentrations, and might exists in high concentrations in the basement of your house (see the map).

The EPA recommends that you should test your home for radon and then fix the problem if your measurement is 4 picoCuries per liter or higher. We estimate that this strategy, if followed, would cost about $25 billion and save about 110,000 lives over the next thirty years.

We can do much better by using existing information on radon levels to target homes that are likely to have high levels. If meausrements are more targeted, we estimate that the same savings of 110,000 lives can be achieved at a cost of only $15 billion. The problem with the EPA’s recommendation is that, by measuring everyone, including those who will probably have very low radon, it increases the number of false alarms–high measurements that occur just by chance in low-radon houses.

We found formal decision analysis to be a useful tool in quantifying the recommendations of where to measure and remediate. (For more details, see Section 22.4 of Bayesian Data Analysis and this paper).

Click here to see what to do for your house.