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Radon in the News

Are Granite Countertops Health Risk?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Most modern kitchens have them -- granite countertops.

Many people probably never thought twice about their safety, but some scientists say there are potential health risks with granite countertops.

"It's not something I would have thought of right away," said Paul Saxman of Lake Mary, whose home has granite countertops. "I realize it's a stone, but I wouldn't have thought that it would have been a problem."

But William Llope of Rice University said, "There's no question that there is the potential for risk."

Llope tests granite slabs to find out if they are radioactive. His testing shows most granite gives off harmless amounts of radiation, but he said "some of these granites I've measured resulted in doses that were hundreds or thousand times this natural background."

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HGTV Green Home 2009 Earns EPA’s Indoor AirPlus and Energy Star Labels

Release date: 05/14/2009, Contact Information: (News Media Only) Dave Ryan, (202) 564-7827 / 4355 / ryan.dave@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. – May 14, 2009) The Home and Garden Television (HGTV) Green Home 2009 has earned EPA’s Indoor AirPlus and Energy Star labels. Indoor AirPlus qualified homes include all the features consumers would normally want in a new home, plus moisture control, radon control, pest barriers, improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, low emitting materials and independent verification.

The home is located in Port St.Lucie, Fla., and its Energy Star and AirPlus labels mean the home will have the latest technology for a healthier living environment.

EPA Does Not Provide Oversight of Radon Testing Accuracy and Reliability

What We Found

EPA does not perform oversight of radon testing device accuracy or reliability. The 1988 Indoor Radon Abatement Act required that EPA establish proficiency programs for firms offering radon-related services, including testing and mitigation. EPA established and operated proficiency programs until 1998, when it disinvested in these programs. According to Agency representatives, EPA has neither the authority nor resources to ensure radon testing devices and testing laboratories are accurate and reliable. EPA asserts that it shares oversight responsibility with States and industry, including the two national proficiency programs operating under private auspices. However, without oversight, EPA cannot assure that radon testing devices provide accurate data on indoor radon risks or that radon testing laboratories accurately analyze and report radon results.

On the Level: Understanding radon mitigation systems and how they work

My daughter and son-in-law have put a contract on a home up in Lancaster County, Pa.

From the inspection they got a report that the radon level in the finished basement was on average 21.5pCi/L (picoCurries per liter of air). They are moving to the area from Massachusetts and need a house. They have a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old who will be playing in the finished basement. They are wondering if it's wise to buy this house, if radon mitigation systems work very well and what type of radon mitigation system would be the best. Would the house be difficult to resell if they bought it? Are you familiar with radon and radon mitigation systems? We have never talked about radon during the years I have attended your seminars at the senior center and I don't remember seeing any articles in The Capital.

The rising threat of radon

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions demand our attention, but not all subterranean killers announce themselves so boisterously. One in particular is both sinister and stealthy, creeping into millions of homes across the United States every day and night, killing thousands of people each year.

Radon is the country's No. 2 cause of lung cancer, behind only cigarette smoke, and has a yearly U.S. death toll of about 21,000 people. It's a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that's colorless, odorless, tasteless and chemically inert, so it can easily go unnoticed in someone's house for years. The EPA estimates that about one in 15 American homes has elevated radon levels.

How radon gets inside
Nearly all soils contain low levels of decaying uranium, which emits radon gas, although certain regions have more than others (see U.S. map below). It's normally harmless — groundwater absorbs some of the radon, and the rest floats to the surface and radiates softly into the air.

Radon Lurks In Many Upstate Homes

Radon Lurks In Many Upstate Homes

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. -- Eddie Metcalfe of Hendersonville says he's lucky to be alive and he gives partial credit to a kidney stone.

In January 2008, Metcalfe, a regional manager for a spice company, was on a business trip in south Florida.

"I woke up in the middle of the morning and passed a kidney stone and went that morning to the emergency room at the local hospital," Metcalfe told WYFF News 4's Myra Ruiz. "They did a CAT scan on my kidneys and found I had a spot on my lung."

Doctors diagnosed Metcalfe with lung cancer. "The fact that I hadn't smoked in 23 years pretty much ruled out smoking. I'm not around smoke. I don't work in an environment that's cancer-causing."

That's when Metcalfe learned about radon - a colorless, odorless gas - from his doctor back home.

"He told me that it was the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States," Metcalfe said.

Immediately, Metcalfe bought a test kit from a local home improvement store.

What's New on RadonLeaders.org?

In this InFocus we update you on what’s happening in the radon community and on RadonLeaders.org.

Stakeholder Meetings: Connecting & Sharing Resources

There have been several radon stakeholder meetings this spring. We want to briefly update you on these meetings, and to share tools and resources that have come from them.

RadonLeaders.org Wins Web Award

RadonLeaders.org Wins Web Award

RadonLeaders.org has been selected as one of six winners (out of 35 nominations) for EPA's 2008 Web Workgroup Award. RadonLeaders.org is the online home of the Radon Leaders Saving Lives Campaign, a joint initiative by the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, and EPA, with the goal of doubling the lives saved from radon exposure within 5 years. RadonLeaders.org facilitates better communication and collaboration between radon leaders by providing online tools such as discussion forums, an events calendar, user blogs, and a resource bank. The award was presented at a ceremony on April 28 in Washington DC.

2009 National Radon Action Month Results Are In! Submit Your Feedback by May 4

2009 National Radon Action Month Results Are In! Submit Your Feedback by May 4

The results for the 2009 National Radon Action Month are now available! Provide feedback about your involvement in the 2009 National Radon Action Month by May 4!

In an effort to reduce the number of lives lost to radon-induced lung cancer, state programs, radon professionals, schools, and partner organizations across the country worked together in 2009 to raise radon awareness. You reported a total of 1,874 events and activities – nearly two times higher than the number of submissions in 2008; and compared with 2007, more than eleven times higher. Wow!

Cancer diagnosis gives Portlander a mission to educate others on radon

Susan McCormick felt like a million bucks.

She was in Peru in August, "the trip of a lifetime" for her. The middle school social studies teacher, then 51, and her cousin had climbed Machu Picchu, high above sea level.

It was almost time to fly back to Portland to begin the new school year at Fowler Middle School in Tigard.

Two days before Susan left Peru, she developed a dry cough that didn't seem to want to go away. "My cousin and I had stayed in a variety of hostels in Peru where you could smell mildew and mold. I thought, 'A couple days of clean air and some Benadryl, and I'll be fine.' "

But after a few days back in Oregon, she still had a cough. "No fever or congestion, just a cough."

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