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Elevated radon levels at Montgomery Co. schools prompt concerns

Elevated radon levels at Montgomery Co. schools prompt concerns

WASHINGTON — Parents alarmed by the news that elevated levels of radon have been found in 26 Montgomery County schools and two school system facilities say they want answers — including what remediation efforts have been carried out.

According to information supplied by the school system, some of those elevated ratings were discovered as far back as 2012.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, who backed county legislation requiring radon testing when single family homes are sold, says he’s concerned about the findings.

“I was actually in contact with the schools back when we had originally introduced the radon legislation and was assured that testing was being done and that those levels were safe,” he said.

Rice says he now has more questions for school officials.

The Fallsmead Elementary PTA hosted a meeting Tuesday night, where officials from the school system were expected to explain the findings in the report, made public by the Parents Coalition.

A Strategy for Saving Lives: The National Radon Action Plan

Last month, the American Lung Association took a significant step in the national fight against the second leading risk factor for lung cancer: radon. We've been battling radon for decades, but now we have a renewed commitment under a new plan.

The American Lung Association led the development of the National Radon Action Plan: A Strategy for Saving Lives, working with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and eight other national partners. The plan sets out strategies to drive the changes needed to reduce exposure to radon, a naturally occurring, invisible and odorless gas that causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually.

EPA and Partners Announce National Plan to Prevent Lung Cancer Deaths Due to Radon Exposure

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Lung Association, and other partners are announcing a strategy for preventing 3,200 lung cancer deaths annually by 2020 through radon exposure reduction strategies. Exposure to radioactive radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America. The goal to save these lives will be achieved by reducing high radon levels in five million homes, apartments, schools and childcare centers. The partnership includes three federal departments and agencies, and nine national organizations.

“EPA is very pleased to be a partner in this important life-saving effort to prevent lung cancer caused by radon. Working together creates new opportunities for reducing the risk from radon. Combining our resources will save American lives by magnifying our effectiveness in preventing exposure to radon in homes and schools,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Missouri Radon Levels Higher Than Previously Thought

It's silent, invisible, and a major cause of cancer. In addition, a surprising number of houses in the St. Louis area have too much of it, according to recent test figures.

Many Missouri home owners don't know about radon, or it’s risk, until it's too late. And state politicians aren't doing much to fix the problem.

“Seems like someone should have brought it up before. I don't want to end up dying from lung cancer,” said Wentzville homeowner Brian Hunsicker.

There's something in Brian and Joanne Hunsicker's home steadily stealing years from their lives. It’s cancer- caused by an odorless, radioactive gas called radon. It seeps out of the soil and into many homes across Missouri and the nation.

“Radon is responsible for about 21,000 deaths each year,” said Dr. Bill Field, an internationally-acclaimed Radon expert.

In fact, Field says, radon is the number two cause of lung cancer in the U.S...a surprise for many of its victims.

Radon Testing Now Mandatory For Montgomery County Home Sales

Montgomery County is the first local government in the U.S. to mandate testing for radon gas before a home can be sold. The Environmental Protection Agency says homes in the county are at particular risk for having dangerous levels of the gas.

Most single-family homes would have to be tested for radon before they are sold under a measure the county council gave unanimous approval. Maryland state law already encourages home sellers to test for it and mandates that if radon is detected, they tell the potential buyer. But testing isn't required by the state, and county councilman Craig Rice feels home buyers should know what they are getting.

"We are just asking people to test. Just to make sure that they know what may be lurking in their homes unknown that might be a silent, deadly killer," Rice says.

Radon gas is invisible and radioactive. It comes from the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. Humans exposed to it have greater rates of cancer and other diseases.

Montgomery Co. Considers Controversial Bill Requiring Home Sellers to Test for Radon

In Maryland, home sellers who know that their homes have elevated radon levels are required to disclose that information to prospective buyers. However, at present, home sellers have no duty to measure the radon levels in their homes.

That could change in Montgomery County if the County Council approves a controversial bill that would mandate radon testing.

Bill 31-15, sponsored by Council members Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) and Sidney Katz (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), would require home sellers to test their homes for radon and provide the results to prospective home buyers before entering a sales contract. If the bill is enacted, Montgomery County would become the only jurisdiction in the country to mandate radon testing.

Read more here.

Move over, bacon — lots of other things also cause cancer

On Monday, the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) came out with the strongest findings yet that processed meat (like bacon and ham) causes colorectal cancer in humans.
The agency also found that red meat (beef, lamb, etc.) may increase your risk of developing the same type of cancer.

Americans have a 1 in 20 chance of developing it within their lifetime, and the disease is expected to cause about 49,000 deaths this year.
So, how does eating bacon and other deliciously salty processed meats shape up in terms of overall cancer risk?

Click here to learn about things you can avoid to reduce your risk of developing cancer.

High radon levels in Iowa homes 'surprise' University of Iowa researchers

IOWA CITY, Iowa — You can't see it, you can't smell it, but it causes cancer. It's radon, and a recent study by the University of Iowa suggests it can be found at higher than recommended levels in many Iowa homes.

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas caused by the uranium in the Earth's crust. It can be found in concentrated levels, often in the lower levels of homes. According to state officials, it's the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation.

The UI study was conducted in 2013 and published last month. Researchers tested more than 350 homes in the small northwest Iowa town of Akron.

Learn more here.

Bel Air Tests for Radon in Town Hall after Employees Express Concerns

Bel Air town officials have ruled out the carcinogenic radon gas as a source of the health concerns of some town employees after testing showed levels in the bottom level Town Hall do not exceed the outdoor concentration of radon.

"I'm happy to report we're way, way below any kind of a problem area," Public Works Director Steve Kline told town officials during a recent work session.

Some town employees had expressed their concerns about health risks related to radon, a radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer, especially after deaths of employees in recent years.

"There's been some concern that some of the problems downstairs, health-wise, might be as a result of a radon problem," Kline said, referring to the lower level of the building where police department operations are located.

Radon Awareness Week in the City of Fort Collins

The City of Fort Collins encourages residents to test the radon levels in their homes as Radon Awareness Week approaches starting October 19. Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally-occurring gas associated with serious health concerns such as cancer.

The City offers zero-interest loans to assist with mitigation costs when radon is present. The loans range from $1,000 – $3,000 and can assist with up to 90 percent of the costs associated with radon mitigation. Radon tests must be completed prior to applying for these loans. More information about air quality loans may be found at http://www.fcgov.com/airquality/loan.php.

Additionally, radon test kits are part of the City’s Healthy Homes free in-home air quality assessments. To schedule an assessment, go to www.fcgov.com/healthyhomes.

Read more here.