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Radon in the News

Radon law to take effect

When Cecil Keen moved into his Mankato home, he did a radon test in the basement.

“It was off the charts,” said Keen, a professor in the geography department at Minnesota State University.

Keen hired a contractor for $1,500 to mitigate the problem by installing a pipe and fan system to vent the deadly gas from under the basement slab out through the roof.

That experience and ongoing MSU research showing a majority of Mankato homes with high radon levels led Keen and others to successfully push for a state law that requires all new homes to be built with radon mitigation.

The new regulations go into effect June 1.

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Safety Of Granite Countertops Questioned

BOSTON -- For many homeowners, granite is the countertop of choice, but could it pose a health risk?

Debate is simmering around the country about whether granite may emit potentially dangerous radon.

NewsCenter 5's Liz Brunner reported that a Texas physicist who tests granite slabs said there is no question there is a potential for risk. He said some slabs emit much more gamma radiation than what comes naturally from the ground.

"Especially when you have 100 square feet of it or 50 square feet of it in a kitchen," Rice University physicist William Llope said.

"What we can do is tell you that this countertop is more dangerous than this one," said granite salesman Al Gebhart.

Some granite salesmen nationwide go so far as to test what they sell.

"My position is that consumers ought to know that up front and let them decide whether to take it or not," Gebhart said.

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The 10 Commandments of Cancer Prevention

About one of every three Americans will develop some form of malignancy during his or her lifetime. This year alone, about 1,437,000 new cases will be diagnosed, and more than 565,000 people will die of the disease. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in America, and as deaths from heart disease decline, it's poised to assume the dubious distinction of becoming our leading killer.

You don't have to be an international scientist to understand how you can try to protect yourself and your family.

The 10 commandments of cancer prevention are:

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.