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Radon in the News

Radon Poses Extra Threat for Homes in Winter Months

The threat of radon makes this the season to be wary.

The gas that can't be seen or smelled but is the second-leading cause of lung cancer — smoking is No. 1 — is a particular peril to this area at this time of year.

"A lot has to do with the geology in this area," said Jerry Weyer of Radon Reduction Specialists in Manitowoc, referring to the traces of uranium in the regional bedrock that converts to radioactive radon gas as it decays. "But houses are shut tight at this time of year — that allows the radon to be sucked into the home."

Kerri and Howard Herrild found that out when they purchased their Ledgeview house in November. A radon test revealed that the gas levels in the home were above 4 picocuries, the radiation safety standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

With a 2-year-old in the house, the Herrilds spent $600 to have a radon reduction system installed before they moved in over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Radon in Tap Water Worries Chelsea, CA Residents

Some residents in Chelsea, Que., are spending thousands of dollars to rid their drinking water of radioactive gas.

Radon gas forms naturally from the breakdown of uranium in the ground and seeps up through basements and cracks in the foundation of houses.

Chelsea resident Dugald Seely installed a specialized ventilation system to remove radon when he moved to the area, but he said the gas was still getting into his house. That's when he began to suspect his well water.

"Many houses won't have this as an issue, but I think it's worth checking," Seely said. "Especially when there are kids that are going through development and are at high risk."

A U.S. lab tested his water and found high radon levels. While the water is safe to drink, Seely said running the taps releases radon into the air.

Charlotte Barrette-Brisson, a Montreal-based radon mitigation expert, said she was "surprised" to learn radon is being released through the taps.

Web Exclusive: Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer

Watch this video

(KYTX) - You don't have to be a smoker to develop lung cancer.

The second leading cause of this killer could be hiding in your house and you might not even know it.

You can't see it or smell it, but Radon could be lurking in your home right now.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas.

Radon specialist Terry Howell says it can accumulate in both old and new homes, also in office buildings, high-rises, and schools.

And exposure to radon can pose a serious health risk.

Howell says, "Most people think that smoking is primarily the cause of lung cancer and they're right, but Radon seems to be the second most common cause."

Being a smoker increases the risk of cancer from Radon, because smokers' lungs are already compromised.

And just because your neighbor doesn't have radon in their home doesn't mean you're in the clear.

Poor Quality of Indoor Air Could be Behind Your Health Problems

One of the top five public health risks facing the United States is the air we breathe indoors -- in our homes, schools and businesses.

It's where Americans spend about 90 percent of their time, and where levels of pollution could be two to five times higher than outdoor levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Indoor air pollutants -- such as dust mites, volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs), fibrous particulates, radon, mold and other contaminants -- can trigger short- and long-term health problems ranging from asthma to allergies.

A strong indicator of poor indoor air quality is a person's symptoms dissipating when away from the structure and increasing when one returns to it. The EPA recently announced it would spend $2.4 million on a cooperative to help increase awareness and improve indoor air quality nationwide.

Ohio Health Dept. Lands $100K in State Grants

State Senator Karen Gillmor (R-Tiffin) announced Thursday grants totaling more than $1.9 million have been awarded by the Ohio Department of Health to county health agencies within the 26th Ohio Senate District.

"These grants will allow county health agencies to provide health services for important issues such as lead poisoning and radon, which are often overlooked in many communities but can have devastating health consequences," Gillmor stated in a news release. "I commend the efforts of all of these agencies in working to keep Ohio families and children safe and healthy."

The Seneca County Health Department has been awarded a $54,000 grant for childhood lead prevention and a $50,500 grant for indoor radon education and outreach.

"We appreciate so much of what (Sen. Gillmor) does," said Health Commissioner Marjorie Broadhead. "All of these are wonderful programs."

Univ. of Nevada Cooperative Extension Contest: Test Your Home for Radon

January is National Radon Action Month and the Nevada Radon Education Program at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) is sponsoring a “Test Your Home for Radon and Win Contest” for residents of Douglas, Carson City and Washoe counties.

The “Test Your Home for Radon and Win Contest” will provide two Carson City, Douglas or Washoe county homeowners with a $1,500 credit towards the installation of a radon mitigation system.

"We hope the contest encourages more homeowners to test their homes for radon," said Susan Howe, Nevada Radon Education Program director. "We're adding the incentive of winning two $1,500 credits toward two radon mitigation systems to increase awareness of the importance of mitigating homes with elevated radon levels."

Radon Test Results in Wisconsin Area Raise Red Flags

The results of radon testing in the Fox Valley are in — and it's not good news, especially in the Neenah-Menasha area.

The latest testing data compiled by the state Department of Health Services suggests nearly half the homes in Winnebago, Outagamie, Waupaca and Calumet counties contain radon concentrations surpassing the federal safety standard.

The readings reported in homes in Winnebago and Waupaca counties were off the charts, registering radon concentrations some 60 times higher than what the EPA deems safe.

David Daniels, the owner of Radon Specialists of Wisconsin in Neenah, knows that some residents question the prevalence of radon contamination in and near their homes. But he said that should not deter them from testing radon levels in their homes, using inexpensive and widely available radon test kits.

States Pursue Radon Limits in Drinking Water as EPA Action Lags

States are taking the lead with studying levels of radon in drinking water and air even as federal regulators lag, as a coincidence of geology and population density leaves some more at risk than others of suffering from the naturally occurring radioactive toxin.

Nine states have guidelines for radon in drinking water, with New Jersey considering the most stringent levels, fourfold tighter than a limit proposed but never mandated by U.S. EPA in 1999.

Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Wisconsin are the other states that have some guidance levels for the chemical, said Ted Campbell, a hydrogeologist with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and chairman of a committee tasked with recommending its own levels.

But most of the recommendations are at levels scientists say are insufficient to protect human health.

Radon is Linked with 10 Percent of Lung Cancer Deaths

Long-term exposure to residential radon is responsible for about 10 per cent of lung cancer deaths, according to experts in Canada. The combination of smoking and long-term radon exposure drastically increases the risk of lung cancer, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recently stated.

“Many Canadians are not aware of the risks from residential radon gas and what they can do to stay healthy,” noted Dr Jeff Turnbull, President of the CMA. “With winter approaching, physicians want to make sure their patients are aware of this potential health hazard.”

The CMA, together with the Canadian Lung Association, have joined forces with Health Canada to raise public awareness of the effect radon exposure can have on an individual’s health.

Launching a Radon Data Exchange Workgroup

Launching a Radon Data Exchange Workgroup

Radon remains a leading cause of cancer. As we to ramp up action to reduce radon’s health risk, two areas we can all get smarter on are the collection and use of data. EPA, states, and several national and regional consortia all collect radon data. These programs have differing data needs, reporting requirements, thresholds, calculation protocols, and approaches to validation and verification. Despite these differences, the data collections share common purposes – improved tracking and understanding of radon exposure. Data is information and information is the programmatic foundation for effective radon risk reduction. People leading these programs need access to data that is reliable, consistent, and comparable across programs. While there is a significant amount of radon data, it is decentralized. EPA wants to launch a partnership effort through RadonLeaders.org to better coordinate the collection of radon data, and aggregate as much available data as possible.

EPA has frequently heard about the desire for a new radon map from the radon community. Currently, developing a new radon map is not a feasible project for EPA to take on. EPA hopes that this data project will help us, and the entire radon community better understand how a new map would serve the radon community and the public, and to try to find alternative, more affordable ways to meet those same needs.

In addition, many in the radon community share the view that the existing EPA Radon Zone Map is used inappropriately. When the map was introduced in the early 1990’s it was intended to show potential levels thereby helping states plan their programs. It has been EPA’s position that every home should be test for radon levels. However, the public and policymakers look for “bright lines,” and the zone designations have taken on a life of their own. They are often the reference point for whether or not actions are taken, with the rationale that policy should be focused in “high risk” areas. True, but the reality is that since radon is such a serious health hazard, even Zone 3 is relatively high risk compared to many other environmental pollutants.

There is much to be gained from the coordination of radon data. To be effective, this partnership project must be driven by stakeholders from across the radon community. We all need to participate.

CLICK HERE to register for an initial meeting. You can also provide your immediate thoughts now. Get involved!

Please respond by Wednesday, December 15, 2010. The first step in this effort will be a conference call on Friday, December 17, 2010 to discuss this work.