Monday, December 22, 2008

So you want to by a House?...Part 6 - Radon

This is one of the craziest things with the USEPA I have ever dealt with and I as I said before, I could be wrong, but I think something stinks with this one (no radon has no odor). For many years the USEPA has been looking for a way to explain non-cigarette related lung cancers, they did this epidemiological study on lung cancer among uranium miners in Grand Junction, Colorado. They did this because there were a significant number of non- smokers in the mine (Native American, primarily). So in 1989 they began trying to establish regulation regarding radon and they have an established limit for radon in air of 4 picocurries per liter of air. What they finally did a couple of years ago was to pass the data off to the National Science Foundation who suggested that there could be a link to lung cancer, but that the main issue was still smoking. I have a hard copy of that review, I can not find it on the web any more since the USEPA has gone on their radon campaign. The USEPA passed the buck to the states and said you have to regulate water and gave them money to do so. There is a general guidance document that says 5,000 picocuries per liter of water is a recommended limit for private consumption and 300 in a municiple water supply. Up to last year, the state of Connecticut website had all the conflicting info concerning the issue. That has been removed since the USEPA money came down. One of the most interesting piece of epidimelogical work that I have seen was something done by the state of Washington which should and inverse relationship with the number of lung cancers and radon levels in water. The biggest issue I have is that the incidence of non-smoking lung cancers has not been related to actual radon exposure levels. As an environmental investigator, I find ths completely distasteful and wrong. Now it has started a whole new buisness of radon mitigation, but it has also put home buyers and homeowners in a difficult situation. If it is shown not to be a real issue, then homeowners will have pent useless money and new homebuyers can not take the chance that it will not be an issue for the future. Truth my not prevail in this case, but the recommendation that everyone get the level of radon in the air check is sound because it will allow a true epidemilogical study on tradons part in lung cancer.
Now radon is an item that does impart radioactive particles (Radon 222 releases alpha particles and Radon 224 releases beta) and so the chance that this is a carcigan exists, but the pulling scotch tape realeases X-rays and that is more significant.
So I say I could be wrong...
First the epidemiglogical study needs to be done and that will tell us everything. Next I have been wrong about things before. When?
Well when we had a very proactive Health director concerning lead, lead standards and abatement and he wanted to drop or level of lead in dry paint from the national level of 0.5% to 0.06%. I actually fought him on it because there was no evidence to support it. We then had a single case where the level of chewed paint was between those two numbers and the child's lead leval was significant. Now I realized that that was an acute situation and may not have had a lasting effect on the lead level in the child, but it did not matter, the level was high , even for a short time and I became an ardent supporter of that more stringent level.
So until the data supports the conclusions that have been drawn, I remain very skeptical.

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