Issue Date: September 26, 2011
‘Living With Radon’
I would like to add some important points missed in “Living with Radon” (C&EN, Aug. 22, page 36).
Significant new data suggest that the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies should take strong action on indoor radon. The new data are found in the “WHO Handbook on Indoor Radon: A Public Health Perspective” and EPA’s Office of Inspector General’s “More Action Needed to Protect Public from Indoor Radon Risks.”
The World Health Organization handbook summarizes the pooled residential radon-lung cancer case-control studies as well the underground miner radon-lung cancer cohort studies and, on the basis of new data, recommends that countries establish radon reference levels at the equivalent of 2.7 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or one-third lower than EPA’s 4 pCi/L action level.
The EPA OIG report documented that there are now more U.S. homes with elevated indoor radon than at any time in history. Although EPA, states, tribes, and industry deserve to be proud that 1 million U.S. homes have received radon remediation, this effort has failed to prevent new homes with elevated radon from being added to the U.S. housing stock.
The major challenge our national radon risk reduction effort faces is that since 1997 EPA has flat-funded its radon effort at an annual $14 million.
By William J. Angell
The report on radon in homes is interesting both for what it says and what it does not say. The subject seems to be that EPA has done nothing in the past 25 years to protect American citizens from the harmful effects of this naturally occurring gas. Nowhere do I see anything to suggest what has actually been done or what should be done to protect those citizens who are potentially exposed.
In 1981, in order to sell my house in Woodbridge, Conn., I had to have a basement test for radon. I do not know whether this was a federal or state requirement. When I questioned the technician who brought the sample kit, he explained that this section of Connecticut had a band of underlying rock that released this gas. My samples were below the threshold, so I was happy.
A little research on Google shows a map of the many geographical areas in the U.S. with geological structures that evolve radon. The website has lots of valuable information for anyone who is interested enough to read it. Also included is a lot of bureaucratic posturing about “plans” from EPA.
While it may be satisfying to bash EPA for not correcting this problem, it does not seem likely that there is a simple national solution to such a widespread issue. At best, EPA should require that each state have in place a required program to survey the problems and conduct testing and remediation according to local needs.
There must be a lot of radon-monitoring data at EPA, epidemiology data at the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Health & Human Services, and other technical information at other agencies that could be the basis for a real C&EN article on radon. I expect that your readers would see more value in this kind of article than one that tells us that the government has done nothing to protect us for the past 25 years.
By Benton Leach
High Point, NC
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