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Radon May Be Radioactive And Cause Cancer, But Can It Set Off Alarms In A Nuclear Power Plant?

2012 January 10

By Jani Palmer

There’s a lot that you can do for your health. Me, I’m going to live forever. I eat my veggies, take vitamins, exercise, buy organic, avoid chemicals, use a pleated air filter and drink green tea. Know what else you should be thinking about? Well, last year I wrote about how I tested my home,  remember? Thirty some years ago, testing for radon wasn’t on the list of things to do for a healthy home and body. When I was a kid, my parents certainly weren’t testing for radon.

Why did I test my home? Simple; I think about Stanley Watras and his family. Stanley Watras worked as a construction engineer building the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant in Pennsylvania. As he entered the facility one day, he set off the radiation alarm. How this happened was a mystery since no radioactive material had yet been brought into the plant. Investigators searched for the source and finally decided to test his home for radon. Incredibly, the amount of radon to which Mr. Watras was exposed at home (photo below) was sufficient to activate radiation alarms in a nuclear power plant. The radon level in my home was about 6 pCi/L; the level in Stanley Watras’ home averaged 2,700 pCi/L.

While the radon level in my home wasn’t setting off any radiation alarms, it was still considered high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends action to reduce radon if the radon level in your home is 4 pCi/L or higher.

Testing your home is the first step, but it’s not going to change anything unless you take action. If the radon in Stanley Watras’ home can be reduced from 2,700 pCi/L to under 4 pCi/L, then so can yours. Visit EPA’s radon home page for more insight, including how to find a qualified radon service professional to test or mitigate your home, and how to build a new home with radon-resistant features .

About the author: Jani Palmer is a physical scientist in EPA’s Center for Radon and Air Toxics, Indoor Environments Division. She has been in the indoor air quality and industrial hygiene field for more than 10 years providing environmental consulting and services for school districts, industry and public agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman permalink
    January 10, 2012

    Thank you Ms. Palmer……

    Now, It’s clear. Radon-resistant features answers my question before. But it is just in U.S. and similar countries. High Cost Economy?

  2. Ted permalink
    January 11, 2012

    Each year many cases about radon poisoning and death reported around the globe, but not many people actually know what is radon and why it is so dangerous to people . So here some information that some one find helpful.
    Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil. It is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas that seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air. In a few areas, depending on local geology, radon dissolves into ground water and can be released into the air when the water is used. Radon gas usually exists at very low levels outdoors. However, in areas without adequate ventilation, such as underground mines, radon can accumulate to levels that substantially increase the risk of lung cancer.

  3. June 19, 2012

    I can’t believe…! A lot of information to read this topic. Information on the success of the really big business. Thaks for this effort.

  4. June 20, 2012

    I found it crazy that radon set off an alarm at a nuclear power plant! I hope the guy that worked there didn’t get lung cancer from living in his home!

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