Monday, January 12, 2009

Facts Presented to the President Concerning Radon by Three of the Leading Radon Scientists in our Nation

Recently Dr. Jay Lubin, National Cancer Institute, Dr. Susan Conrath, US EPA, and Dr. Bill Field, University of Iowa and member of the World Health Organization's International Radon Project, presented invited testimony, including startling statistics, at the President's Cancer Panel gathering in Charleston, SC.

Dr. Lubin stated that studies of residential radon exposure conclusively demonstrate that radon is a human lung carcinogen. He said that these findings raise concerns about lung cancer risk to the general population exposed to relatively low concentrations of airborne radon in their homes. Conclusions have been drawn from the pooling of 11 miner cohort studies that indicated radon attributable lung cancers from residential radon exposure is 10-15 percent in the U.S. Further, in questioning from the President's Cancer Panel, he agreed with Dr. Field that the risk estimates from the large residential pooled analyses, which support the findings from the miner-based studies, are likely underestimates of the true risks.

Dr. Lubin indicated that if homes with radon levels above 2 picocuries per liter of air were mitigated, then about half of the radon-attributable lung cancer deaths could be prevented. Radon is one of the most extensively investigated human lung carcinogen and the diversity and consistency of the information indicates that the weight of evidence for radon carcinogenicity is overwhelming according to Dr. Lubin.

Dr. Bill Field, a Professor of Public Health and member of the World Health Organization's International Radon Project, indicated that most of the radon-induced lung cancers occur below the U.S. EPA's radon action level. In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal by Sarah Darby and colleagues at the University of Oxford said that government protection policies focus mainly on the homes with high radon levels and neglect the 95 percent of deaths linked to lower levels of radon. Colleagues at the University of Oxford agree that installing basic and inexpensive measures to prevent radon in all new homes would be more cost-effective and have greater potential for reducing lung cancer deaths caused by radon.

In his testimony to the President's Cancer Panel, Dr. Field stated that comparative human health-based risk assessment performed by the U.S. EPA and numerous stated agencies have consistently ranked radon among the most important environment health risks facing the nation. According to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study in 1998, radon was judged the number one health risk in the home. He indicated the time for more aggressive action to battle this deadly killer has long passed and pointed out that in the last half century alone, one million people have died from radon exposure in the United States.

According to the EPA's 2008 Office of Inspector General Report, of the 76.1 million existing single family homes in the United States in 2005, only about 2.1 million had radon-reducing features in place. Indoor radon exposure continues to grow in the workplace, single-family homes, and rental properties; however, the United States is a nation that protects her citizens from harm just as was done with the lead-based paint act.

(I ask our state and federal governments to protect us from this Silent Killer--Radon.)--Gloria Linnertz

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