AARST Position Statement
Granite Countertops and Radon Gas

August 5, 2008

From the Technical and Science Committee
of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST)

Radon Risk
The primary concern about indoor radon gas is the increased risk of lung cancer that exists from breathing radon and its byproducts. The magnitude of the risk depends on the radon concentration in the air you breathe and how long you are breathing it. Radon gas is a serious national concern. The risk of radon-related lung cancer increases the longer you are exposed although any exposure to radon poses some risk.
Testing for radon in the air you breathe should be a high priority and the first step for anyone concerned about radon gas. The US Surgeon General, US EPA, AARST and the American Lung Association recommend that all homes be tested for radon gas.
At this time, the EPA does not believe sufficient data exists to conclude that the types of granite commonly used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.
Radon Sources Including Granite
Soil, sand, and rock underneath the home are the primary sources of indoor radon gas. The soil under a house always contains traces of uranium that eventually decays into radium that then decays directly into radon. This soil constitutes an enormous surface area for release of radon gas into the air and into buildings. Materials inside a building such as concrete, granite, slate, marble, sand, shale and other stones can also contain traces of radium that release radon with varying intensities. While natural rocks such as granite may emit some radon gas, the subsequent levels of radon in the building that are attributable to such sources are not typically high. The contribution from building materials to the indoor radon concentration is very dependent upon the building ventilation rate.
Appropriate Radon Testing Methods
Direct measurements in a building of the gamma radiation or radon emanation from a material, such as granite, is not a reliable indicator of radon concentrations that will be in the air you breathe. Attempts to use such measurements for estimating risk are subject to large errors due to the:
  a) wide variability of radon emanation rates across the surface of granite.
  b) significant variability in ventilation rates from home to home and room to room.
  c) volume of space that the building material is contained in.

This position statement does not address the risk, if any, of gamma radiation from indoor building materials.
Practical Diagnostic Test
Diagnostic measurements of the radon in the air you breathe can provide better risk estimates.
Perform a radon measurement according to testing protocols (specified by EPA or AARST as noted below) in the lowest level (or lived-in level) of your home.
At the same time, perform another test in the room where the granite countertop or other suspect building material exists. You may also want to test in a highly occupied room, like your bedroom. (Use different rooms if these locations are on the same floor.)
Place the test devices at least 20 inches off the floor according to testing protocols and at least 20 inches away from the countertop or suspect material. Carefully follow all manufacturers' test kit instructions.
You may also contact a State licensed or nationally certified radon measurement professional to conduct the measurements for you.
If any of the test results are at or above the EPA recommended action levels retest these areas to confirm the initial results.
Interpreting Radon Test Results
For guidance on test results and protocols for measurements of radon in the air, see documents such as EPA's Citizens Guide to Radon or other EPA publications at  http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs.   Other information and publications for measuring radon in the air for home and multi-family dwellings can also be found at http://www.aarst.org
If confirmed measurements are at, or above, the EPA recommended action levels, contact a State licensed or nationally certified mitigation professional to fix the home to reduce the radon levels.
Reducing Radon Concentrations
The best approach to reduce radon in the home is to install an active soil depressurization system (ASD) and reduce the entry of radon coming from the soil. In some cases, increasing the entry of outdoor air to the home is an appropriate method to reduce radon levels by dilution and improve indoor air quality. Both of these methods require a qualified radon mitigation professional to design and install the appropriate radon reduction system. Only in extreme cases would removal of the granite be necessary to reduce the radon concentration, assuming appropriate measurements confirm it as the significant source.
In Conclusion
Testing the air you breathe is the best method to determine your risk from radon, whether the source of the radon is from the soil or from a material inside the building.
We support peer-reviewed research to identify and quantify the contributions of various building materials to indoor radon concentrations.
This statement was provided by the Science and Technical Committee of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST).
This statement was prepared by AARST professionals with no external funding or other support.  The sole purpose of this statement is educational and to reduce lung cancer deaths from elevated concentrations of indoor radon.

For More Information Contact:
Peter Hendrick, Executive Director
14 Pratt RD
Alstead, NH 03602


What’s Lurking in Your Countertop?

The New York Times

Published: July 24, 2008

SHORTLY before Lynn Sugarman of Teaneck, N.J., bought her summer home in Lake George, N.Y., two years ago, a routine inspection revealed it had elevated levels of radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. So she called a radon measurement and mitigation technician to find the source.

“He went from room to room,” said Dr. Sugarman, a pediatrician. But he stopped in his tracks in the kitchen, which had richly grained cream, brown and burgundy granite countertops. His Geiger counter indicated that the granite was emitting radiation at levels 10 times higher than those he had measured elsewhere in the house.

“My first thought was, my pregnant daughter was coming for the weekend,” Dr. Sugarman said. When the technician told her to keep her daughter several feet from the countertops just to be safe, she said, “I had them ripped out that very day,” and sent to the state Department of Health for analysis. The granite, it turned out, contained high levels of uranium, which is not only radioactive but releases radon gas as it decays. “The health risk to me and my family was probably small,” Dr. Sugarman said, “but I felt it was an unnecessary risk.”

As the popularity of granite countertops has grown in the last decade — demand for them has increased tenfold, according to the Marble Institute of America, a trade group representing granite fabricators — so have the types of granite available. For example, one source, Graniteland (graniteland.com) offers more than 900 kinds of granite from 63 countries. And with increased sales volume and variety, there have been more reports of “hot” or potentially hazardous countertops, particularly among the more exotic and striated varieties from Brazil and Namibia.

“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, N.Y., who took radiation measurements at Dr. Sugarman’s house. “But I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”

Allegations that granite countertops may emit dangerous levels of radon and radiation have been raised periodically over the past decade, mostly by makers and distributors of competing countertop materials. The Marble Institute of America has said such claims are “ludicrous” because although granite is known to contain uranium and other radioactive materials like thorium and potassium, the amounts in countertops are not enough to pose a health threat.

Indeed, health physicists and radiation experts agree that most granite countertops emit radiation and radon at extremely low levels. They say these emissions are insignificant compared with so-called background radiation that is constantly raining down from outer space or seeping up from the earth’s crust, not to mention emanating from manmade sources like X-rays, luminous watches and smoke detectors.

But with increasing regularity in recent months, the Environmental Protection Agency has been receiving calls from radon inspectors as well as from concerned homeowners about granite countertops with radiation measurements several times above background levels. “We’ve been hearing from people all over the country concerned about high readings,” said Lou Witt, a program analyst with the agency’s Indoor Environments Division.

Last month, Suzanne Zick, who lives in Magnolia, Tex., a small town northwest of Houston, called the E.P.A. and her state’s health department to find out what she should do about the salmon-colored granite she had installed in her foyer a year and a half ago. A geology instructor at a community college, she realized belatedly that it could contain radioactive material and had it tested. The technician sent her a report indicating that the granite was emitting low to moderately high levels of both radon and radiation, depending on where along the stone the measurement was taken.

“I don’t really know what the numbers are telling me about my risk,” Ms. Zick said. “I don’t want to tear it out, but I don’t want cancer either.”

The E.P.A. recommends taking action if radon gas levels in the home exceeds 4 picocuries per liter of air (a measure of radioactive emission); about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day. In Dr. Sugarman’s kitchen, the readings were 100 picocuries per liter. In her basement, where radon readings are expected to be higher because the gas usually seeps into homes from decaying uranium underground, the readings were 6 picocuries per liter.

The average person is subjected to radiation from natural and manmade sources at an annual level of 360 millirem (a measure of energy absorbed by the body), according to government agencies like the E.P.A. and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The limit of additional exposure set by the commission for people living near nuclear reactors is 100 millirem per year. To put this in perspective, passengers get 3 millirem of cosmic radiation on a flight from New York to Los Angeles.

A “hot” granite countertop like Dr. Sugarman’s might add a fraction of a millirem per hour and that is if you were a few inches from it or touching it the entire time.

Nevertheless, Mr. Witt said, “There is no known safe level of radon or radiation.” Moreover, he said, scientists agree that “any exposure increases your health risk.” A granite countertop that emits an extremely high level of radiation, as a small number of commercially available samples have in recent tests, could conceivably expose body parts that were in close proximity to it for two hours a day to a localized dose of 100 millirem over just a few months.

David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York, said the cancer risk from granite countertops, even those emitting radiation above background levels, is “on the order of one in a million.” Being struck by lightning is more likely. Nonetheless, Dr. Brenner said, “It makes sense. If you can choose another counter that doesn’t elevate your risk, however slightly, why wouldn’t you?”

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is considered especially dangerous to smokers, whose lungs are already compromised. Children and developing fetuses are vulnerable to radiation, which can cause other forms of cancer. Mr. Witt said the E.P.A. is not studying health risks associated with granite countertops because of a “lack of resources.”

The Marble Institute of America plans to develop a testing protocol for granite. “We want to reassure the public that their granite countertops are safe,” Jim Hogan, the group’s president, said earlier this month “We know the vast majority of granites are safe, but there are some new exotic varieties coming in now that we’ve never seen before, and we need to use sound science to evaluate them.”

Research scientists at Rice University in Houston and at the New York State Department of Health are currently conducting studies of granite widely used in kitchen counters. William J. Llope, a professor of physics at Rice, said his preliminary results show that of the 55 samples he has collected from nearby fabricators and wholesalers, all of which emit radiation at higher-than-background levels, a handful have tested at levels 100 times or more above background.

Personal injury lawyers are already advertising on the Web for clients who think they may have been injured by countertops. “I think it will be like the mold litigation a few years back, where some cases were legitimate and a whole lot were not,” said Ernest P. Chiodo, a physician and lawyer in Detroit who specializes in toxic tort law. His kitchen counters are granite, he said, “but I don’t spend much time in the kitchen.”

As for Dr. Sugarman, the contractor of the house she bought in Lake George paid for the removal of her “hot” countertops. She replaced them with another type of granite. “But I had them tested first,” she said.

Where to Find Tests and Testers

TO find a certified technician to determine whether radiation or radon is emanating from a granite countertop, homeowners can contact the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (aarst.org). Testing costs between $100 and $300.

Information on certified technicians and do-it-yourself radon testing kits is available from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site at epa.gov/radon, as well as from state or regional indoor air environment offices, which can be found at epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html. Kits test for radon, not radiation, and cost $20 to $30. They are sold at hardware stores and online.


Home Radon May Have Tie To Childhood Leukemia

NEW YORK JUL 18, 2008 (Reuters Health) -

Children who live in homes with high radon levels may be at increased risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia during childhood, but not other childhood cancers, research from Denmark suggests.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of infection-fighting white blood cells. Outside of fetal exposure to X-rays and genetic conditions, the causes or risk factors associated with childhood ALL are poorly understood.

Higher rates of childhood cancer, and particularly leukemia, have been observed in geographic regions with higher levels of radon -- a natural radioactive gas that emanates from soils and can concentrate inside houses. Yet, studies assessing links between breathing radon gas and the risk for childhood cancer have yielded mixed results.

Against this backdrop, Dr. Ole Raaschou-Nielsen of the Institute for Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, and colleagues looked at the lifetime radon exposures of 2,400 children who had been diagnosed with cancer between 1968 and 1994, and 6,697 cancer-free children.

All the children were born and living in Denmark, and were age 15 or younger. One-year radon measurements from regions in which the children lived were used to predict cumulative radon exposure.

The researchers found that children exposed to "intermediate" levels of radon had a 21 percent higher risk of developing ALL relative to children exposed to the lowest levels of radon. Children with the highest radon exposures had a 63 percent greater risk of ALL relative to those with the least exposure.

These associations held up in further analyses that factored in other characteristics potentially associated with increased cancer risk, such as mother's age, birth order, traffic density around the home, electromagnetic field exposures, and the building type of each home.

Raaschou-Nielsen and colleagues, who report their findings in the medical journal Epidemiology, say they have no obvious biological explanation for the suggested association between radon exposure and ALL.

In related commentary, Dr. Andrew F. Olshan, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, cautions that these findings may just be a signal to devise long-term, progressively refined studies that may or may not reveal definitive answers.

"The etiology of childhood cancer has remained elusive, especially with regard to possible environmental influences," Olshan noted.


Radon and Granite Countertops - ConsumerReports.org

June 30, 2008

Buzzword: Radon

What it is. Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that results from the natural decay of uranium in soil and rock. The gas moves up from the ground and can diffuse into the air or enter a home, typically through cracks and holes in the foundation or concrete slab. (Radon can also enter the home through well water and by way of some building materials). The presence of radon in the home can pose a danger to your health, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in this country.

Why the buzz? Radon has been in the news recently with reports that some granite countertops can release dangerous levels of radon. This isn't a new claim—it surfaced in the 1990s—and it's fairly controversial. In April 2008, BuildClean, a nonprofit that aims to educate consumers about safe and healthy building materials, made news when it announced that its pilot project would provide free in-home radon testing of 300 homes in Houston to determine whether granite countertops emit harmful levels of radon. It's worth noting that two big makers of quartz countertops, Cambria and Cosentino (which also sells granite counters), are the sole funders of BuildClean. "By its nature, granite emits radon—the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.," said Sara Speer Selber, BuildClean's president, in a press release at the time.

Next, in early May, W.J. Llope, Ph.D., a senior faculty fellow at the T.W. Bonner Nuclear Laboratory at Rice University in Houston, released a report in which he analyzed 18 articles covering 95 granite samples. In "Radiation and Radon from Natural Stone" (PDF download), Llope reported that 92 of the granite samples emitted no or very little radon, though two were in the 3.1-to-3.4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) range, and one registered 4.2. (These measurements assume a hypothetical unventilated room, not a standard home, according to Llope's study.) The EPA estimates that the average indoor radon level is 1.3 pCi/L and suggests that you reduce radon when the level in your home is 4 pCi/L or higher.

Shortly after Llope released his report, the Marble Institute of America trade group announced the results of a study of its own. A professor of geology at the University of Akron tested 52 samples (four each of 13 different types) of the most popular granites used for countertops in the U.S., representing the majority of granite countertops sold here, according to the MIA. Ten added "almost immeasurable amounts of radon to the house," reads the study, while two had radon levels of 0.04 pCi/L. The highest level of radon emitted from one stone was 0.27 pCi/L. The study did not account for natural ventilation in a home, which would dilute the concentration of radon.

Looking for some clarity on this issue, I interviewed Michael Kitto, Ph.D., a research scientist for the New York State Department of Health. As part of a study he's planning to submit for peer review, he measured the radon emissions from more than 40 granite and engineered stones in airtight containers, without ventilation. Kitto found that the engineered stones emitted almost no radon and many of the granite stones were very low emitters of radon. A few stones emitted slightly more radon, and only one emitted a substantial amount of radon. (Kitto defines substantial by saying it could produce from a few to several pCi/L in a room; he adds that the exact value depends on many variables, including kitchen volume and countertop size.) BuildClean and Cosentino also fund Kitto's study.

Consumer Reports has done limited radon testing on granite counters. Using a radon meter in a room with the door closed, we tested one sample of granite from two national companies and one slab from a local stone yard. None added any radon to the air. (Look for our report on short-term radon tests kits in the September 2008 issue of Consumer Reports, on sale and online this August.)

The EPA emphasizes the importance of testing the air in your home for radon, whether or not you have countertops made from granite. But there are too many variables and too little information to generalize about the radon risk granite counters pose to humans, according to Dave Ryan, an EPA press officer. The EPA has not conducted studies on radon in countertops and has no plans to do so at this time. Limestone, soapstone, and marble countertops do not pose a radon concern, according to Kitto.

If you have granite countertops and want to test them for radon, place a short-term home radon test kit near the granite and another kit in the basement or lowest usable level of the home. Follow the manufacturer's directions carefully, as the test results are affected by heat and humidity.

* If the test results state a radon level of that's lower than 2 pCi/L in your basement, you don't need to do anything.

* If the test reveals a radon level of 2 to 4 pCi/L in your basement, follow up with a long-term test kit to more accurately measure the level.

* If the long-term results from your basement are between 2 and 4 pCi/L, consider professional remediation to minimize risk.

* If the short- or long-term results in the basement are 4 pCi/L or above, hire a radon professional for an assessment and, if necessary, remediation.

* If the kit in the basement/lowest level registers a lower level of radon than the one near the granite, you can be fairly sure that the granite is the source of radon and not something beneath your home. If the level near the granite is 2 to 4 pCi/L, our experts say you might consider remediation—removal. If the level is 4 pCi/L, our experts recommend remove the granite countertop.—Kimberly Janeway

Essential information: Read "Dealing With the Dangers of Radon Gas" for information about remediation and finding a qualified pro in your area. Read about lead and radon test kits, then find out about the best countertops in our Ratings-based report in the August 2008 issue of Consumer Reports.


Homeowners allege that fake radon systems were installed to fool building inspectors

By Edward Marshall / Journal Staff Writer /p>

POSTED: June 23, 2008

CHARLES TOWN — A total of 10 current and former homeowners in the Locust Hill subdivision in Charles Town are suing the builder of their homes for allegedly failing to install functional radon removal systems, and in one case allegedly installing fake pipes to intentionally deceive building inspectors.

The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court on May 16 on behalf of the homeowners by the Skinner law firm, based in Charles Town, and names Richmond American Homes of West Virginia, its parent company M.D.C. Holdings, and three subcontractors as defendants.

According to the suit, Jefferson County is an Environmental Protection Agency “Zone 1 radon area”, meaning the county is an area with high radon levels. Radon is a naturally occurring, colorless and odorless radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and ground water, and has been shown to lead to lung cancer.

The suit alleges that Richmond American Homes violated county building codes by failing to install functional radon removal systems in the plaintiffs’ homes, and allegedly even put in place fake systems in at least one of the homes.

M.D.C. Holdings, Inc., is a nationwide homebuilder and home lender that builds houses under the name Richmond American Homes through subsidiaries that it owns. According to the complaint, the corporation’s total revenue for the first quarter of 2008 was $406.1 million with the average selling price of a home being $313,200. Richmond American Homes of West Virginia, Inc, is a subsidiary of the company.

The other defendants named in the suit are Specialized Engineering, North Star Foundations and Breeden Mechanical, all subcontractors that the suit alleges may have contributed in some way to the improper design of the homes, faulty construction and, or improper installation of the radon removal systems.

Each plaintiff in the case is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest and attorneys fees. They have demanded a trial by jury.

IL State Rep. Karen May to Speak at Midwest Radon Conference 

3/19/08 AARST

State Rep. Karen May (D-58), sponsor of House Bill 4789 - The Radon-Resistant Residences Act - will speak on May 2, 2008 at the Midwest Radon Conference in Deerfield IL.  HB4789 is currently before the Illinois General Assembly and calls for a Radon-Resistant Building Codes Task Force to propose guidelines for radon-resistant building codes.

Ms. May is chairperson of the Illinois House Environmental Health Committee and was co-sponsor of the 2007 Illinois Radon Awareness Act.  That Act mandated that home buyers to be made aware of the dangers of radon and advised them to have radon testing included in real estate transactions.

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and kills approximately 1160 Illinois residents each year.  A naturally occurring radioactive gas, radon can only be detected by testing.  Approximately 46% of Illinois homes have high levels of radon.


Governor Blagojevich proclaims January as Radon Action Month

Urges people to test homes for radon, which is second-leading cause of lung cancer in U.S.

1/3/08 - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today proclaimed January as Radon Action Month in Illinois and urged people throughout the state to test their homes to see if they have elevated levels of the radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer. Radon is recognized as the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the nation, behind smoking, but is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers.

Blagojevich noted that a new law should increase public awareness about the health risks associated with radon. The Illinois Radon Awareness Act, which took effect Jan. 1, requires sellers to provide anyone buying a home, condominium or other residential property in Illinois with information about indoor radon exposure and the fact that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause overall. The new law doesn’t require that homes be tested for radon prior to the sale or that radon remediation work be conducted if test results show high levels of radon. However, under the new law, if a radon test has been conducted on the home those results must be provided to the buyer.


IEMA urges homeowners to test homes for elevated levels of radon

September 27, 2006, Patti Thompson 217/558.0546

Report finds that nearly half of 22,000 homes tested in Illinois had excess levels of naturally occurring radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is urging homeowners throughout the state to test their homes for radon after a study of radon testing results found nearly half of 22,000 homes tested by professionals had potentially unsafe levels of radon. The study also found 80 counties where few, if any, professional tests for the naturally occurring radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer were conducted during the two-year study period.

"I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for people to test their homes for radon," said IEMA Director William C. Burke. "Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. It’s easy to test your home to find out if your family is being exposed to high levels of radon, and to have your home mitigated if levels are too high. But you’ll never know what your risk is unless you test your home."

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. It can enter homes and buildings through small cracks in the foundation, sump pumps or soil in crawlspaces. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has determined that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation. The National Academy of Sciences and the Surgeon General estimate that 21,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur annually in the United States, as many as 900 of those in Illinois.

Tracy Morjal, a McHenry County mother of two, knows the importance of home radon testing. Last year, Morjal tested her home and found radon levels in excess of 8 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), more than twice the USEPA’s recommended action level of 4.0 pCi/L. She had a radon reduction system installed in her home and today is spreading the word to others in her community about the need for radon testing.

"I want people to know about radon and take it very seriously," Morjal said. "I’m very concerned about my children’s health and I never allowed smoking in the house to protect them

from second-hand smoke. But when I found out that our house had high levels of radon, which is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, I knew I had to get it fixed."

Morjal contacted an IEMA-licensed radon mitigation company to install a radon reduction system. Today, radon levels in her home are well below the USEPA action level.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) recently verified and analyzed radon screening measurement data from 22,082 homes in 72 of 102 Illinois counties. Results indicate that approximately 46 percent of all homes tested had radon levels greater than the USEPA action level of 4.0 pCi/L.

The screening information was obtained from radon measurement reports submitted by licensed radon measurement professionals throughout Illinois. Information used for the study came from radon measurements performed from January 2003 through December 2004. The data do not include radon tests conducted by homeowners. The new report updates an earlier version released by the state in 1992. Results from the 1992 report, as well as a USEPA survey in Illinois, also are included in the latest report.

No data on home radon measurements by licensed contractors during the study period were available for 30 counties. In addition, 50 other counties had too few professional tests done to provide a good picture of the radon potential in that area. However, the previous studies by the state and USEPA indicate excessive radon levels can be found in every county in Illinois.

While the IEMA radon report used data from tests conducted by radon measurement professionals licensed by the agency, homeowners can conduct tests with kits purchased at hardware or home improvement stores. Do-it-yourself test kits cost approximately $20-25 each. A home radon test conducted by a licensed radon contractor will cost around $125-150.

IEMA encourages anyone who discovers their home has elevated levels of radon to contact a licensed radon mitigation professional to correct the problem. As with radon measurement professionals, mitigation experts in Illinois are licensed by IEMA to ensure they have the proper equipment, specialized training and technical skills to do the job right and reduce radon in the home to safe levels. Depending on the home, radon mitigation can cost between $800-1,200.

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed January 2006 "Radon Action Month" to urge people throughout the state to test their homes for the radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer. During the month, IEMA and the American Lung Association of Illinois (ALAIL) gave out more than 2,500 free detectors and worked to increase public awareness of the need to test homes for radon. Results from free tests distributed by IEMA and the ALAIL will be analyzed by IEMA to further clarify the occurrence of radon throughout Illinois.

"It’s been known for some time that exposure to radon gas increases your risk of developing lung cancer and smokers are at a higher risk for radon-induced lung cancer than non-smokers," said Harold P. Wimmer, president and chief executive officer of the ALAIL. "The American Lung Association of Illinois is pleased to be working with IEMA in its efforts to increase radon awareness in Illinois."

IEMA’s radon staff works with licensed radon professionals, real estate agents, county health departments, health care providers, the ALA, Illinois State University and the University of Illinois in Springfield and Chicago to help inform the public about radon risks. The agency offers continuing education courses on radon for real estate agents and home inspectors, gives presentations to groups throughout the state and sets up exhibits at numerous conferences each year to help spread the word about radon.

Results from the study, lists of licensed radon measurement and mitigation professionals and other information about radon are available on the IEMA website at www.state.il.us/iema. . Radon information and free home test kits are also available through the radon hotline at 1-800-325-1245.


Alliance for Healthy Homes and American Lung Association Provide the Truth About Radon

Real estate agents can sometimes mislead (perhaps unintentionally) prospective homebuyers by downplaying the severity of indoor radon exposure or the likelihood that high radon levels could exist in a particular community.

(PRWEB) January 9, 2006 -- Real estate agents can sometimes mislead (perhaps unintentionally) prospective homebuyers by downplaying the severity of indoor radon exposure or the likelihood that high radon levels could exist in a particular community.

As part of National Radon Action Month, the Alliance for Healthy Homes (AFHH) and the American Lung Association (ALA) have prepared a Radon Fact Sheet containing up-to-date information regarding radon risk:

1. Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers; radon causes lung cancer in smokers as well.

2. There has been more epidemiologic investigation exploring the association between radon (and its decay products) and lung cancer than any other environmental carcinogen. Experimental exposure in animals, occupational studies of radon-exposed miners, and direct observation from individuals exposed to radon in their homes provides a firm scientific foundation that documents radon is a major environmental carcinogen.

3. According to the Science Advisory Board, “radon inhalation is the largest source of collective radiation exposure (and presumably, radiation risk) to the U.S. population as a whole.”

4. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Science Advisory Board increased their radon risk assessment by more than 50% and now estimate 21,000 Americans die of radon-induced lung cancer annually

5. The World Health Organization (WHO) says radon causes up to 15% of all lung cancers worldwide.

6. Although lung cancer can be treated, the survival rate is one of the lowest for those with cancer. From the time of diagnosis, only 11-15% of those afflicted will live beyond five years, depending upon demographic factors.

7. Residential pooling studies from both North America and Europe provide direct evidence linking residential radon exposure to lung cancer; “These findings effectively end any doubts about the risks to Americans of having radon in their homes,” said Tom Kelly, Director of EPA’s Indoor Environments Division. “The research confirms that breathing low levels of radon can lead to lung cancer.”

8. Because radon is a Class A carcinogen, and elevated be found in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General recommend all homeowners and all homebuyers test for indoor radon

9. Elevated radon concentrations can be found in every community. Houses with basement, slab-on-grade and crawlspace construction all have the potential for dangerous radon levels.

10. In 2005, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a Health Advisory warning Americans about the health risk from exposure to radon in indoor air.

11. Radon-induced lung cancer can easily be prevented by testing your home and reducing concentrations that are at or above EPA’s 4 pCi/l Action Level

12. Homes with elevated radon concentration can easily be fixed with the installation of an Active Soil Depressurization System by a certified or state licensed radon mitigation contractor.

13. ASD systems also decrease moisture and other soil gases entering the home, reducing molds, mildews, methane, pesticide gases, volatile organic compounds and other indoor air quality problems.



Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s – Could the Cause be Radon?

In a study conducted at the University of North Dakota, researchers discovered that the presence of radioactive radon daughters in the brains of non-smoking persons with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease was 10 times greater than it was in the brains of persons with no previous evidence of neurological disorders.

(PRWEB) August 2, 2004 -- In a study conducted at the University of North Dakota, researchers discovered that the presence of radioactive radon daughters in the brains of non-smoking persons with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease was 10 times greater than it was in the brains of persons with no previous evidence of neurological disorders. Professor Glenn Lykken and Dr. Berislav Momcilovic assert their study demonstrates that indoor radon gas has the capacity to irreversibly infest the brain with the poisonous progeny of radioactive heavy metals.

Recently revised EPA risks assessments estimate 21,000 Americans die annually from radon induced lung cancer, 150% higher than their 1994 estimate. However, scientists are increasingly suspicious that radon may be linked to disease in other parts of the body as well.

When inhaled, radon gas accumulates in lipid tissue throughout the body with the highest concentration in the brain, bone marrow, and nervous system. Additionally, one-third of the inhaled radon decay products (radioactive particles produced when the gas decays) pass from the lungs into the blood stream indicating that the gas does not flow quickly in and out of the lungs, but lingers in the body.

Previous study at UND determined that once radon is rapidly absorbed into the body from the lung, a fraction accumulates in the brain resulting in increased gamma ray emissions from bismuth-214 (one of the radioactive radon decay products) and altered EEG signals.

While radon is a lipid-soluble gas that can move freely in and out of the brain despite the blood-brain barrier, none of the transmuted heavy metal radon daughters are soluble in the lipids, meaning they remain trapped in the brain where they emit gamma radiation and alpha particles resulting in both radiation and chemical injury to the brain cells.

Of keen interest was the unexpected discovery that the radioactivity selectively accrues to the brain proteins in the Alzheimer’s victims and to the brain lipids in the Parkinson’s victims. This pathognomonic distribution was inferred to reflect the increase of local chlorine availability to which the radon daughters bound selectively.

Once present, the most likely candidate for radiation injury appears to be the highly radiosensitive astrocytes rather than the more radioresistant neurons, which do not divide. Other studies have indicated the astrocytes may be involved in Alzheimer's disease and the amyloid deposits and neurofibrillatory tangling observed with Alzheimer's may well reflect the response to radiation injury of the astrocytes.

Interestingly enough, the geographic distribution of Parkinson’s disease mortality is considerably higher in states with greater radon potential, according to research by D.J. Lansak of the University of Kentucky and published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences.

An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, the number having doubled in the last 25 years. An estimated 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease with 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
University of North Dakota researchers are looking for more funding to continue their research. To access the study in its entirety, please go to www.radonnews.org or the Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders Magazine. Contact: Professor G.I. Lykken at UND at (701) 777 – 3519.