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Scientists and Investigators Cite Need for Radon Regulation to Prevent Lung Cancer- Call Current EPA Efforts Ineffective

A growing chorus of experts, including scientists testifying before the President's Cancer Panel, investigators at the U.S. EPA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and leading health organizations are urging the EPA Administrator to use regulatory authorities authorized by Congress to protect citizens from lung cancer caused by indoor radon exposure.

Atlanta, GA (PRWEB) January 22, 2009 -- A growing chorus of experts, including scientists testifying before the President's Cancer Panel and investigators at the U.S. EPA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) are urging the EPA Administrator to use regulatory authorities authorized by Congress to protect citizens from lung cancer caused by indoor radon exposure.

According to the 2008 OIG report entitled, More Action Needed to Protect Public from Indoor Radon Risks, efforts to reduce radon exposure through mitigation or building with radon-resistant new construction have not kept pace. "Nearly two decades after the passage of the 1988 Indoor Radon Abatement Act (IRAA), exposure to indoor radon continues to grow," states the report. "Given the Agency's limited progress from its voluntary approach for the past 19 years, it is time for the Agency to consider other means…EPA should assess how it can use the authorities granted in law to achieve long-term IRAA goals or identify alternatives for achieving the desired results."

In presentations to the President's Cancer Panel (PCP) last month, leading scientists and public health officials echoed the OIG's recommendations.

Dr. William R. Field, a professor and Epidemiologist at the University of Iowa told the panel, "There is precedent for legislating practices to limit exposure to toxins in construction. The prohibitive use of lead-based paint in the U.S. is an example. The requirement of radon-resistant construction methods, at an approximate cost of $500 per home, is cost-effective when one considers potential savings in health care expenditures from disease prevention. "

Dr. James B. Burch, an epidemiologist at the Arnold School of Public Health, urged the panel for a national radon standard that is enforceable. Captain Susan M. Conrath of the U.S. Public Health Service (EPA) testified that voluntary efforts are not enough and suggests requiring testing during real estate transactions.

Dr. Field stated in his presentation, "In a similar manner to smoking, where we are essentially allowing a 'bioterrorist within' to attack over a million Americans each year, radon is a 'dirty bomb' within our homes that attacks millions of people each year. Numerous cost/benefit analysies have clearly indicated that both mitigation of existing homes and adopting radon resistant new construction features can be justified on a national level."

But, according to the OIG report, "The potential loss of a sale represents a disincentive for real estate agents and sellers to conduct radon tests during real estate transactions. Added expense represents a disincentive for builders to use radon-resistant new construction."

Real estate agents have historically opposed proposed requirements for a radon test prior to purchase. According to the Associate General Counsel of the National Association of Realtors, testing for radon and/or disclosing test results during a real estate transaction adds an additional layer to an already taxing house buying process. This has created a disincentive for real estate agents and sellers to bring up radon issues during a sale. The representative said radon is not a high priority in many real estate transactions, and adding another step to the transaction process could be "a negative."

According to the OIG recommendations, "Government-sponsored enterprises such as the Federal Home Loan Bank System, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (also known as Freddie Mac), and Federal National Mortgage Association (also known as Fannie Mae) represent the largest source of housing finance in the United States. The construction of new homes financed or underwritten by these and other federal departments and agencies present a substantial opportunity to increase the number of homes built with RRNC or mitigated for radon."

"Between 10 percent and 14 percent of all lung cancer deaths per year may be attributable to radon," says Dr. Jay H. Lubin, Senior Health Scientist with the National Cancer Institute. "We're asking a few [those home buyers who voluntarily test to bear a societal burden for all mitigation. Relying on buyers also does nothing to solve the problem of radon in schools and other municipal structures."

Dr. Lubin writes in his testimony to the PCP that, "Radon is one of the most extensively investigated human lung carcinogens. The diversity and consistency of the information indicates that the weight of evidence for radon carcinogenicity is overwhelming."

According to Dr. Field, 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, but the current voluntary approach to risk reduction has been unsuccessful thus far.

"In the last half century, an estimated one million people in the United States have died from radon exposure, but the federal government still does not require radon testing prior to the sale of a home," says Sara Speer Selber. President of BuildClean, a non-profit organization dedicated to safe and healthy homes. "Congress needs to act."

Gloria Linnertz, of Cancer Survivors Against Radon, lost her husband Joe to radon-induced lung cancer in 2006. Since his death, Gloria seizes every opportunity to point out the need for radon legislation. "The seat-belt laws in our nation have saved thousands of lives. James Baldwin said, 'Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." Our governments--state and federal--need to face the fact that radon gas is present in every state and that it causes lung cancer that quickly kills people.'"


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