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Radon in the News

We All Live With Low-Level Radiation; How Harmful Is It?

Every day, everyone on earth is bathed in low-level radiation from cosmic rays, radon gas and other sources. Many people also undergo medical X-rays and airport scans. How much is too much?

Don’t worry too much about the hint of radiation reaching U.S. shores from the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan, experts say.

So far, it’s much less than we’d get from a chest X-ray.

But consider this: Every day, all day long, we’re bathed in low levels of radiation — cosmic rays from outer space, radon in our houses, uranium deposits in the soil, radio signals from every AM and FM station in range, airport full-body scanners, dental X-rays, cellphones, even tiny hints lingering from the A-bomb tests of the 1940s and ‘50s.

And remember that radiation is cumulative. Most scientists agree there’s no such thing as a harmless dose.

Now relax. It’s less scary than it sounds.

The Biology of Radioactivity

The Biology of Radioactivity

With the recent problems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, caused by the Tohoku earthquake and consequent tsunami on March 11, attention has been drawn to how radiation can be dangerous to our health. But radiation isn’t all bad; it’s often used to improve our quality of life, from medical diagnostic tools to smoke detectors and much more, such as supplying power to techniques used in science laboratories.

Even if we wanted to, it’s impossible to completely avoid radiation, as we’re constantly exposed to it all around us. Since we evolved with constant exposure to background levels of radiation, our bodies know how to repair damage from it. But exposure to high levels can put a person’s health at risk. To decrease such risks, officials set standards for “safe” levels of radiation exposure based on studies of how different levels affect the human body.

Uranium Levels High in Lake Region, Maine Waters

Uranium Levels High in Lake Region, Maine Waters

RAYMOND - Raymond residents Howard and Eileen Stiles are warning area homeowners on private wells to check their water for uranium.

After hearing from some of their neighbors who found high uranium content in their well water, the longtime residents of Raymond's Deep Cove Road, located off Jordan Bay, had their water tested twice. Both tests came back with nearly identical results: 68 micrograms of uranium per milliliter, more than twice the federal Environmental Protection Agency standard of 30 mg/l.

While the human body can eliminate excess uranium from the system within a matter of weeks, according to the World Health Organization, ingestion of uranium over long periods can result in cancerous mutation of kidney cells due to uranium build-up.

Radon Levels Untested in Some Colorado Schools

Radon Levels Untested in Some Colorado Schools

As many as half the schools in Colorado may be out of compliance with a 1991 state law that required them to test radon levels in their buildings and keep documentation of those tests on file.

A survey of each of the state’s 2,274 K-12 schools – sent out by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2009 and still not completed by all of them – found that most schools likely did the testing, and that most of those who found elevated levels of the cancer-causing gas did take steps to fix the problem.

But many did not. More than 300 acknowledge they never completed the testing. And many others lack the documentation to prove they did – nor can they show whether any remediation steps they took were adequate at the time and remain adequate today.

Weekly Standard: Against a Fossil Fuel Renaissance

Weekly Standard: Against a Fossil Fuel Renaissance

Steven F. Hayward is the F. K. Weyerhaeuser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the Almanac of Environmental Trends.

The catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is being regarded as the atomic power equivalent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which set back offshore oil drilling just as it appeared on the brink of a substantial expansion. This means we've now come full circle, as critics of offshore drilling compared the Gulf oil spill to Chernobyl. At the very least the events in Japan are going to reinforce the reluctance of Wall Street to invest in new nuclear power in the United States, deter insurance companies from covering nuclear plants, and increase resistance on Capitol Hill to extending the loan guarantees the nuclear industry says are essential to kick-starting more nuclear installations.

Unseen Threat: Potentially Deadly Radon Gas is Odorless, Invisible

MANITOWOC — Eric Zabel and his family are breathing a little easier now that they know the three-bedroom ranch in Cato they bought about four years ago is free of radon gas.

Prior to buying their home, they had no idea of radon's existence or its negative health effects, Zabel said. They had radon levels tested at the suggestion of their home inspector and real estate agent.

"We bought our house in November of '06 and one of the contingencies on the offer to purchase was that it pass the radon test, so for the couple of hundred dollars that it cost to do that test, we thought it was worth it financially and, most importantly, for our health," he said.

Zabel, 33, and his wife, Claire, were particularly concerned about the health of their daughter, Julia, now 4, who was a few months old at the time, he said. They have since added Courtney, 15 months, and Jeffery, 1 month.

The home didn't pass the test. It was found to have elevated levels of radon, he said.

Nashville Schools Test for Radon After 20-Year Delay

Nashville Schools Test for Radon After 20-Year Delay

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro Nashville schools have launched a major effort to test every school building for the cancer-causing gas radon.

It follows an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation that discovered a startling failure to follow a law passed more than 20 years ago to require testing.

The testing quietly began in 28 schools over Spring Break, but the initial results won't be back for at least a week. Eventually, all 139 schools will be tested.

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered that Metro schools have not tested for the gas in more than 20 years despite a disturbing history with radon.

Davidson County is a high-risk area for radon, which occurs naturally when certain soil and rock decay. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the country.

Testing Your Home for Radon

Watch this news segment.

ROANOKE - "It's a concern," said Sherry Greene. "You want your children to be safe and you want to be safe."

That's why Greene has a radon ventilation system in her home.

Her family moved in about six years ago.

She says the system had already been installed.

"It's nice to know it's already in place. It's taking that out -- if it's here."

But, not everyone is taking the same precautions.

George Fardell, the owner of RADON Safe in Roanoke, says everyone should be concerned. "Sometimes it's too late. That's the problem. A lot of times, we get called to a home and a spouse has died of lung cancer, maybe never smoked."

Radon Radiation Worries: Am I Safe?

Radon Radiation Worries: Am I Safe?

(CBS) As Americans watch the nuclear reactor drama unfold in Japan, many have radiation concerns closer to home. One of them is radon.

What is it? How dangerous is it? And how can you keep your family safe?

Radon is an invisible radioactive gas that has no taste or smell. But over time, it can be very dangerous. Each year, it's estimated that more than 21,000 people die from lung cancer caused by radon exposure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That's almost twice as many deaths as drunk driving. It's the second most likely cause of lung cancer death, behind cigarette smoking.

Radon gas comes from the breakdown of uranium naturally found in soil, rocks and water. That's right, uranium isn't just in nuclear bombs and power plants. It's found in nature too, but in a far less concentrated and less radioactive form.

Renovations May be Putting Children at Risk

Canada's $44 billion renovation industry has been the fastest growing part of the housing sector for the last 10 years, but it is risking the health of those living in the houses under construction -- particularly children -- says a report by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

Renovation activities including energy retrofits, if not done carefully, can greatly increase indoor contaminant exposures, says the report. Renovations may disturb toxic contaminants such as lead, asbestos or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that are legacies of past product uses and practices. Air sealing or tightening a building can reduce the frequency of air exchange and potentially lead to higher radon levels in indoor air, as well as moisture and mould problems.