Radon in the News
A NATURALLY-OCCURRING radioactive gas that leaks from the ground has become an invisible killer due to changes in home construction and lifestyles, and it disproportionately threatens children. Despite European Union rules that oblige member states to improve policies to deal with radon, the gas in question, there appears to be little interest in the issue in Slovakia.
“Officers should measure levels of radon but they do not,” Juraj Vaník from AG&E, a company which conducts radon measurement, told The Slovak Spectator. “The legislation addresses ionisation from subsoil. Sadly no officer from any village’s municipality connects it with radon; it is outside their technological knowledge.”
COLUMBIA — A week before closing on a house in March, Jenn Trentham received the results from a home inspection test for radon, something she knew little about. The house she was about to buy, as it turned out, was above the safe level for radon.
"I kind of panicked," Trentham said. "I didn't know anything about radon."
About 25 percent of buildings in Boone County are estimated to be above this dangerous 4.0 pCi/L level.
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An exercise room in the basement of Camas City Hall was closed last week after testing revealed a high level of radon gas.
City Administrator Pete Capell confirmed that the elevated amount of radon, a naturally-occurring radioactive gas, was discovered during an annual air quality check. On May 1, the city received a report from Cascade Radon, Inc., stating that the reading was 8.0 pCi/L (picocuries of radiation per liter of air).
According to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, to be safe levels of radon must be below 4.0 pCi/L. Readings of 1.3 pCi/L are the indoor national average. Levels of 4.0 pCi/L is considered ‘action level,’ indicating the need to retest or fix the building.
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Radiation is seeping into many Utah homes and most families don't even know it. For some, by the time they find out it's too late. They learn about radon gas after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Lisa Jacobs is living with lung cancer. "It was so confusing because my body had never told me that something was wrong." She was diagnosed in 2012. "Full body scans on Wednesday, showed up at the doctor's Thursday morning, they said you have stage 4 lung cancer and I said 'You're kidding right?'"
You see, Lisa has never been a smoker. "I had not been sick," said Jacobs. "I had been working full time. I was helping coach my daughter's competitive soccer team. I was working out with my girls, no cough, no anything."
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An entire condo building in metro Atlanta was built with radioactive concrete, according to an inspection report obtained by the 11Alive Investigators. It's a relatively new phenomenon where radon inspectors and remediation companies are finding the gas emanating not just from the soil but also from building materials.
Radon is an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas that claims more than 20,000 lives a year, according to Environmental Protection Agency. As radioactive particles decay in the lungs, they can cause lung cancer. The EPA estimates 7,000 of the people who die from radon-induced lung cancer are non-smokers. In fact it's considered the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
"Your entire life, you're accumulating a dose exposure," said Matt Koch with Southern Radon Reduction. Casual exposure isn't a problem, but living with elevated levels of radon in your home for years can be deadly.
The environmental pressure group David Suzuki Foundation has issued a new report about the risks of radon in Canada, especially to homes and workplaces. Although aimed at Canada, many of the points raised are applicable to many countries.
The primary aim of the report is with public education. Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies radon as a known human carcinogen, the report notes that a large number of people are not aware of radon, and fewer still recognize it as a health hazard.
Enjoying the spring air? Well, take a deep breath New York.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, resulting in 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.
So why am I mentioning this now? Well, recent research reported from scientists at Johns Hopkins reiterates the wisdom of legislation introduced by assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and senator Diane Savino mandating that all natural gas sold in New York must contain safe radon levels.
Joan A. Casey and her scientific team recently reported that radon levels in Pennsylvania have risen since hydraulic fracturing of natural gas commenced. The researchers said they "found a statistically significant association between proximity to unconventional natural gas wells drilled in the Marcellus shale and first floor radon concentration in the summer," suggesting "a pathway through outdoor ambient air."
A new study published Thursday reported a disturbing correlation between unusually high levels of radon gas in mostly residences and an oil and gas production technique known as fracking that has become the industry standard over the past decade.
Writing in the journal Environmental Health Perspective, researchers analyzed levels of radon — a colorless, odorless gas that is radioactive and has been linked to lung cancer — in 860,000 buildings from 1989 to 2013. They found that those in the same areas of the state as the fracking operations generally showed higher readings of radon. About 42 percent of the readings were higher than what is considered safe by federal standards. Moreover, the researchers discovered that radon levels spiked overall in 2004, at about the same time fracking activity began to pick up.
Astounding" levels of background radiation measured in some of the city's poorly ventilated urban areas were almost a third higher than the world average, a former environmental protection official has revealed.
Dr. Mamie Lau May-ming, who retired as principal officer last year, measured background radiation with a Geiger counter at around a dozen points across the city last year, including Sham Shui Po, Sai Kung and Central.
At one covered pedestrian bridge in Nam Cheong, radiation levels hit 0.32 microsieverts per hour and above - 36 per cent higher than the global average of about 0.25.
Roughly the same readings were taken from the stairwells of an old Tai Kok Tsui primary school and a poorly ventilated office building corridor in Central.
By contrast, recordings at the abandoned Japanese city of Tomioka-machi, near the tsunami disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, were 0.65 as of September, she said.
Marine Col. Anthony White had already lost a kidney to cancer that doctors attributed to living on Camp Lejeune, N.C., where thousands were sickened by contaminated water for more than three decades. So when he found out in 2011 that his home at Okinawa’s Plaza housing area had exposed him and his family to elevated levels of radon, White took action.
He discovered the problem after watching workers install a radon mitigation system at a nearby house that had been vacated by a family leaving Okinawa. He recognized the system from his home in Virginia, where, as in most of the United States, elevated radon levels are a required disclosure upon sale or rental of a home.
On Okinawa, all housing falls under Kadena Air Base and Air Force radon regulations. Kadena’s rules have required that radon levels be five times higher than the EPA action level before a home will be fixed, when funding has been available.