public health risk
New estimates of radon risks across Oregon underscore the need for homeowners to test for the presence of the odorless, invisible radioactive gas, researchers say.
The update, released this week, suggests that one in every four houses in the Portland area accumulates radon above the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says should prompt fixes to keep the gas outdoors.
That's double the national average, said Scott Burns, a Portland State University geology professor who worked with five students to compile radon tests from homes and businesses statewide.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking, EPA estimates, and the leading cause among non-smokers.
SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Our ABC 4 news investigates report is exposing a silent killer seeping into thousands of Utah homes.
It's a clear and odorless gas called radon. We mailed 16 radon test kits to homes across Utah. Six of the nine test kits, mailed to a lab for results before this story aired, uncovered dangerous levels of radon in the homes.
Connie Nordgren's home in Sandy tested the highest at 26.2, which is alarming. The EPA strongly recommends homeowners take action if a test kit finds a level of four or higher.
"That really concerns me. All of my loved ones have been in the basement," she said.
You can't see it, you can't touch it, you can't taste it, and you can't smell it.
Radon develops from the breakdown of soil and rock, seeping into buildings and the air we breathe. University of Iowa Professor Bill Field is on of the world's foremost experts on radon. He says chronic exposure to the gas could be deadly;
"If you're very unlucky you can be exposed to radon for just a couple of weeks and from that exposure, develop lung cancer."
Radon levels vary from state to state across the country, but Iowa and most of Illinois are considered "ground zero" for the radioactive, cancer-causing gas. And the places we expect to be safe, could be far from it.
Dr. Field estimates 90,000 classrooms nationwide are riddles with radon; our youth being exposed to it everyday.
Now is a very good time to test your home for radon.
Radon alone is attributable to 2,900 deaths a year from lung cancer and is responsible for about half of our total lifetime exposure to radiation.
It is a heavy, colorless, odorless gas that emerges from the ground and collects in cellars and the lower floors of houses, especially in the months when windows are closed and heating draws radon through any leaks or below-ground openings into the house.
It is easy to test for radon. Very inexpensive test kits are readily available online and at some hardware stores. Place the kit in your cellar or first floor away from any windows for a period of two to seven days. Test results are measured in pico curries per liter of air (pci/L).
PITTSFIELD -- When Dorothy Curtiss went shopping for a home, a potential cancer-causing agent wasn't on her list of things to check for.
But Curtiss found bad news in the form of radon -- a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that had seeped into her basement to a degree that is more than twice the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recommended action level.
On the suggestion of her real-estate agent, Curtiss asked an inspector to place a radon detector in her basement before the sale was finalized, a decision she calls the "best $75 I've ever spent."
Curtiss, who bought her home on Velma Avenue seven weeks ago, said she was nervous about the threat, but was resolute in her desire to live there and fix the problem.
Radon, typically found in the basement of a house, kills 400 Iowans a year, but the state health department cannot carry out a state law designed to help protect residents from the deadly gas because it doesn’t have any staff to do so.
Hundreds of radon mitigation systems that are supposed to funnel toxic gas out of basements are not getting tested and could be defective.
Classified as a class A carcinogen like arsenic and asbestos, the colorless and odorless gas causes lung cancer when radon decay particles attach to dust and are breathed into the lungs and damage the DNA, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The law says we’re supposed to do inspections but we can’t because we don’t have the funds to do it,” said Rick Welke, radon program manager at the Iowa Department of Public Health. “There’s people installing 200 systems a year, and they’ve never been inspected.”
WASHINGTON -- A dry cough, a small pain in her shoulder blade - it was probably just allergies, Liz Hoffmann thought before a doctor's visit in 2003. But a chest X-ray soon told a different story. A 5-centimeter mass was growing in her left lung. Soon came the surgery, followed by the nauseating chemo drugs. Next Hoffmann endured daily rounds of chest radiation.
But late in the summer of 2006 the cancer returned. This time more than 4 liters of fluid filled her chest, which was drained twice a week. She endured another round of chemotherapy. By 2008, the cancer had spread to her brain, where the lesions have since multiplied.
Today Hoffmann, 46, is facing a fourth round of chemotherapy, as she continues to beat her original odds of post-diagnosis survival: a 15 percent chance of living five years.
But what caused her cancer? After all, she had neither smoked nor lived among smokers.
CLINTON TWP. – The results are in, and two of Clinton Township’s four school buildings--Spruce Run School and Clinton Township Middle School--have tested higher than the acceptable limit for radon concentrations established by state and federal agencies.
The testing was originally spurred by an unusual number of teachers in the district diagnosed with cancer, but school officials said testing confirmed that the presence of radon gas was unrelated to the cancer cases.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is odorless, colorless and tasteless, said officials, and can be harmful when found in high concentrations
Expecting a large turnout of parents to hear a presentation by the school district’s consultants, Manasquan-based Brinkerhoff Environmental Services, a special public meeting was held at 7 p.m. last Wednesday, March 21 in the auditorium of the middle school, but it was the proverbial party to which virtually nobody came.
In addition to obtaining a statement from the EPA, Rossen Reports reached out to the chairs and ranking members of environmental committees, asking why Congress has not done more about radon testing in public schools. Rep. Fred Upton, Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. James Inhofe responded with statements.
“EPA strives to reduce children's risks from radon exposure at home and in school. While the most significant possible risks are at home, where kids and families spend most of their time, radon can be a concern at school as well. EPA strongly recommends that both homes and schools are tested for radon, and that action is taken when high levels are found.
The good news is that if high levels of radon are detected, the solutions are practical, effective, and affordable.