Radon in the News
The Health and Human Services secretary has approved changes that will make it easier for some people who worked at the Miamisburg Mound Plant in the 1960s and 1970s to qualify for federal compensation and medical benefits if they develop cancers that can be caused by radiation exposure.
Kathleen Sebelius last week signed a letter concurring with government scientists from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, who in May said some workers may have been exposed to three isotopes of radon that leaked into an area undiscovered for 20 years.
Discussion about the danger posed by radon was more than theoretical for Alderwoman Karen Young last week.
"It hit very close to home," she said by telephone Tuesday.
Young bought a 60-year-old house at auction that she said tested positive July 9 for three times the safe level of radon set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Although no ordinance called for it, she ordered the radon test a week before her family, including a 22-month-old grandchild, moved in.
Young said she spent $850 to install a radon vent system that rendered the house safe.
"It's a small price to pay," she said, considering that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
The EPA cites radon as a particular danger to the very young, the elderly and frail.
When it was time to adopt the city's residential building codes July 15, Young was glad the discussion turned to radon.
If you stop smoking, does your increased cancer risk eventually return to zero? Can eating carrots protect against lung cancer? Should a recovering cancer patient test for radon, and are there other risks to be aware of in the home? Is there an estrogen-lung cancer link? These are among the questions readers recently posed by readers of the Consults blog. Dr. Derek Raghavan, director of the Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, responds.
Stopping Smoking? Foods to Fight Cancer?
Q.In college, someone told me that they’d heard that if you smoked in your younger days, and gave it up by the time you turn 30, all of the damage incurred earlier could reverse itself. Is there any truth in this?
Also, I read somewhere that consuming carrots was beneficial for protection against lung cancer. Is there any truth in this? If not, are there any foods that might help?
A.Dr. Raghavan responds:
Thousands more homeowners in the Westcountry have been advised to take action over a natural radioactive gas that seeps into homes across the region.
Cornwall, Devon and Somerset are hotspots for radon, a colourless and odourless naturally occurring gas, thanks chiefly to the geology of the Westcountry and its granite moorlands. It is responsible for an estimated 1,100 lung cancer deaths a year.
After reviewing the latest scientific evidence, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has launched a new initiative to reduce concentrations of radon in UK homes.
It is maintaining its current "action level" for radon gas of 200 becquerels per cubic metre but has also introduced a new "target level" which is half that amount.
The new measure has been introduced after research provided scientists with a greater understanding of the risks to health of exposure to radon below the action level.
The Queen has been urged to have her Scottish holiday home tested for cancer-causing gas after health officials warned it is in a high-risk radon zone.
Balmoral Castle is among thousands of residences being offered a free safety check after a study found it was in a hot spot for the naturally occurring gas.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the Queen’s Highland retreat was in an area in the second highest risk category for radon, which causes around 200 lung cancer deaths in Scotland every year. Council officials in Aberdeenshire have written to 3,000 addresses in Deeside, including Balmoral, schools and hospitals, offering free tests.
A spokesman for the HPA declined to say if Balmoral had accepted the offer, but added: “All addresses in radon-affected areas in Aberdeenshire which have not already had a valid measurement have been sent a letter offering a test.”
Radon is a widely present, radioactive gas that results from the decay of natural uranium in our soil and water. It is odorless and tasteless, so it can only be detected with special kits made for this purpose. If you detect unsafe radon levels in your home, take steps to eliminate the problem and limit further contamination. Continued radon exposure can lead to serious health consequences.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States. The agency cites two studies that show conclusively that breathing low levels of radon can produce cancer in the lungs, and urges testing. The risk increases dramatically for smokers as opposed to non-smokers. Exposure to radon also increases the lower in the earth you are, meaning that basements and first story rooms will have greater levels of radon exposure than higher floors.
Founded in 1943, the Swansea and West Wales Occupational Safety Group is committed to improving occupational health and safety in the Swansea and West Wales region. The Group’s members include over 100 representatives from varying sectors, including heavy industry, manufacturing, the service sector and local government.
In addition to a monthly calendar of events for members, each year the Safety Group holds the Alec Blackburn Memorial Seminar, to which members and safety representatives from local businesses are invited. Entitled ‘Health and Safety, Be Part Of The Solution’, this year’s seminar was chaired by Mr Terry Rose, Health and Safety Executive Divisional Director Wales and South West and included talks covering subjects including leadership, risk management, behavioural safety and corporate responsibility.
Utah’s radiation programs have new leaders.
The new director of the Radiation Control Division is Rusty Lundberg, who has worked in the state’s solid waste and sustainability programs.
Lundberg replaces Dane Finerfrock, who has led radiation programs for the past seven years and retires at the month’s end.
“Rusty has excellent management and leadership skills,” said Utah Department of Environmental Quality Director Amanda Smith, “and will do an outstanding job in the Division of Radiation Control.”
MASON CITY — The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health provides services to county residents ranging from testing for radon and lead poisoning to blood pressure screenings and home health care.
But many of the services it provides are subject to the availability of state funding — which was cut this year — and ever-changing grant programs that may be available.
“Dollars do dictate what you provide,” Director Ron Osterholm said. “If the state or supervisors cut us back then we look at how we want to spend that money.”
A $117,000 budget deficit, caused by across-the-board state funding cuts and reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, led to the reduction in April of five full-time staff positions.
The Health Department today has 44 employees, of which 41.25 are full-time, Osterholm said.
Three of the positions that were cut were from the county’s regional inspection program.
Minden resident Denise Uber has been regularly testing her home for radon, a radioactive gas that's reported to be the main cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, since she purchased it.
But when she came back with a positive test in January she had one response.
“Fix it!” she wrote on a note attached to her test results.
Uber's radon levels were slightly below the minimum set by the federal government until she decided to do some remodeling.
The Hearthstone home was built on a concrete slab back in 2005, and Uber said the floor caused her back problems.
“I have a chiropractor on retainer,” she said.
So she decided to pull out the carpet in her main room and replace it with a floating wood floor.
The new floor helped her back, but when she tested for radon again, the levels rose to 4 picoCuries per liter, right at the action guideline recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.