A cost-effect analysis of an intervention against radon in homes

Hein Stigum, Terje Strand, Per Magnus


Background  Key words  : Radon exposure, lung cancer, cost-effect analysis, attributable risk, models-mathematical: Radon is a radioactive gas that may leak into buildings from the ground. Radon exposure is a risk factor for lung cancer. An intervention against radon exposure in homes may consist of locating homes with high radon exposure (above 200 Bq m-3) and improving these, and of protecting future houses. The purpose of this paper is to calculate the costs and the effects of this intervention. Methods: We performed a cost-effect analysis from the perspective of the society, followed by an uncertainty and sensitivity analysis. The distribution of radon levels in Norwegian homes is lognormal with mean=74.5 Bq/m3, and 7.6% above 200 Bq/m3. Results: The preventable attributable fraction of radon on lung cancer was 3.8% (95% uncertainty interval: 0.6%, 8.3%). In cumulative present values the intervention would cost $238 (145, 310) million and save 892 (133, 1981) lives, each life saved costs $0.27 (0.09, 0.9) million. The cost-effect ratio was sensitive to the radon risk, the radon exposure distribution, and the latency period of lung cancer. Together these three parameters explained 90% of the variation in the cost-effect ratio. Conclusions: Reducing the radon concentration in present and future homes to below 200 Bq/m3 will cost $0.27 (0.09, 0.9) million per life saved. The uncertainty in the estimated cost per life is large, mainly due to uncertainty in the risk of lung cancer from radon. Based on estimates from road construction, the Norwegian society has been willing to pay $1 million to save a life. We therefore conclude that the intervention against radon in homes is justifiable. The willingness to pay is also larger that the upper uncertainty limit of the cost per life. Our conclusion is therefore robust against the uncertainties in the parameters.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5324/nje.v14i2.243

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