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U of M faculty member plays crucial role in designing new World Health Organization radon gas level recommendations

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (09/21/2009) — Bill Angell, a housing studies faculty member in the University of Minnesota’s College of Design and Extension housing technology specialist, is one of the world’s foremost experts on the presence of radon gas in homes and played a crucial role in designing new radon recommendations published today in Geneva by the World Health Organization (WHO). The new guidelines say that radon gas levels in homes should be lowered to about one-third of the previously recommended threshold.

Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer and a class-A carcinogen. The lower threshold means that the number of homes needing radon mitigation in Minnesota will increase by 400,000.

Angell, president of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists and chair of the Prevention and Mitigation Working Group in the WHO International Radon Project, said the revisions were necessary.

New radon limits could cost Sweden billions

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Radon is more of a health hazard than has been hitherto known and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has argued for a dramatic cut in limits for homes and buildings.

The change could cost Sweden billions, according to the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

The WHO recommended on Monday that limits on the radioactive element radon in residential buildings should be cut from a current 1,000 to 100 becquerel per cubic metre (Bq/m3).

In Sweden the limit for when anti-radon measures should be enacted is already lower than existing WHO recommendations - 200 Bq/m3.

But the new WHO proposal means that the Swedish limit could need to be revised, according to Michael Ressner at the welfare board.

WHO Urges Lower Threshold for Acting on Radon

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

WHO Urges Lower Threshold for Acting on Radon

Many of us shake our heads when we hear of non-smokers who develop lung cancer and wonder how they could have come down with such a brutal disease. But in many cases, scientists tell us, exposure to radon gas in their homes could have been the cause. According to the World Health Organization, between 3 and 14 percent of lung cancer cases can be blamed on exposure low- to medium-level levels of radon in homes.

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WHO slashes radon limit in homes, cites lung cancer

WHO slashes radon limit in homes, cites lung cancer

  • New WHO maximum is one-tenth previous level
  • Radon "major and growing public health threat in homes"
  • Radon exposure causes 3-14 percent of lung cancers

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) has drastically cut the maximum amount of radon -- a naturally occurring gas -- that should be permitted in homes because of strong evidence it causes lung cancer.

In a WHO Handbook on Indoor Radon issued on Monday, it called for public health authorities and the construction industry to make great reductions in exposure to radon, calling it a "major and growing public health threat in homes."

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that humans cannot see, smell or taste. It arises from the natural decay of uranium and can seep into homes through cracks in basements or cellars.