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As early as the 1400s, lung disease was associated with the mining of metal ores in the Erz mountains of eastern Europe.  In the 1980s, the potential threat to the public health posed by naturally occurring radon became a concern with the discovery of homes with extremely high radon levels (more than 3000 pCi/L) on the Reading Prong, a uranium-bearing formation that extends through eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey and southern New York.

(From radium; called niton at first, L. nitens, shining) The element was discovered in 1900 by Dorn, who called it radium emanation. In 1908 Ramsay and Gray, who named it niton, isolated the element and determined its density, finding it to be the heaviest known gas. It is essentially inert and occupies the last place in the zero group of gases in the Periodic Table. Since 1923, it has been called radon.

Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory, US Department of Energy.

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Identified in 1879 in autopsies of European miners as lung cancer (Lymphosarcoma).

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Excess lung cancer deaths observed in uranium miners in U.S., Czechoslovakia, France and Canada.

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Excess lung cancer deaths in other underground miners in Newfoundland, Sweden, Britain, France, Australia, China, and U.S.