Would you buy a house next door to a nuclear power plant? Would you build your dream house next to a nuclear waste dump? For millions of families around the world, the dangers from nuclear waste pale in comparison to the deadly radiation they are unwittingly allowing into their homes. Recent reports by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate that guidelines for radon safety are up to 35 times less strict than those for nuclear power and nuclear waste facilities.
Recent concern over the impact that nuclear power and waste facilities have on the surrounding environment has brought about tighter restrictions by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. These restrictions limit the radiation levels found in areas surrounding nuclear facilities and in water flowing from the area. The Code of Federal Regulations mandates:
"The total effective dose equivalent to individual members of the public from the licensed operation [shall] not exceed 0.1 rem (1 millisievert) in a year, exclusive of the dose contributions from background radiation, from any medical administration the individual has received, from exposure to individuals administered radioactive material and released in accordance with ß35.75, from voluntary participation in medical research programs, and from the licensee's disposal of radioactive material into sanitary sewerage in accordance with ß20.2003."
- The Code of Federal Regulations: Title 10 - Energy, Part 20.1301
The EPA designates home radon level of 4.0 pCi/L and above as being dangerous and in need of reduction. Levels below 4.0 pCi/L are not considered to be in need of radon reduction, although the EPA does state that no level of radiation can be considered completely safe. Even at a level of 4.0 pCi/L, the average family will be exposed to nearly 35 times the radiation that is produced by a nuclear waste site. When examining the total radiation that the average person is exposed to, radon contributes a staggering 55% of all radiation absorbed by the human body. When compared to the 0.05% of human-absorbed radiation that the Nuclear Industry produces, radon radiation exposure seems to be a much greater societal concern.
While the nuclear power and waste industry have remained in the media spotlight, this highly radioactive gas has remained an unseen and unknown danger. Recent studies indicate that we are just beginning to understand the full effects of radon. A recent report filed by the EPA estimates that radon contributes to between 7,000 and 30,000 lung cancer deaths each year. And the numbers could be rising.
Since radon is a gas, it can become trapped and fill up a home with the radioactive vapors. The more time spent indoors, the greater the risk of radon-related cancer. And Americans now spend approximately 93% of their time indoors. This increasing risk has begun to attract media attention, as well as new reports and recommendations from government and environmental organizations. The message is clear:
"You can't see radon. And you can't smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. EPA also recommends testing in schools. Testing is inexpensive and easy - it should only take a few minutes of your time. Millions of Americans have already tested their homes for radon."
EPA's A Citizen's Guide to Radon To find out more information about radon gas, please see the article "What Is Radon."