radon

La prueba del radón: ¡Es inteligente y hasta un cavernícola la haría!

Es difícil pensar en una época en la cual ciertos lujos de hoy en día no existían. Los teléfonos móviles inteligentes, el correo electrónico, las fotocopiadoras a color y los blogs se han convertido en parte de nuestras vidas cotidianas. Hay algunas cosas, sin embargo, que han sido parte de la vida humana desde hace mucho tiempo atrás.
En tiempos pasados, nuestros antepasados se mantenían calientes junto al fuego en su cueva.  Y, si la caza era buena, se sentaban alrededor del fuego a disfrutar de la carne de reno, estofado de buey y raíces. El aire exterior era limpio y fresco, pero dentro de la cueva el aire podía estar lleno de humo y si la geología está en lo cierto, lleno de gas radón. ¿Por qué estoy escribiendo acerca de los cavernícolas y el radón? Bueno, también tienen unos antecesores antiguos.

Toda la tierra tiene cierta cantidad de uranio natural.  El uranio tiene una vida media radiológica de un poco mas de 4.4 mil millones de años.  Sigue siendo un material sólido en el suelo durante millones de años. Pero eventualmente el uranio se descompone en radio.  La forma más común del radio, que también es un elemento solido, se descompone en radón en unos 1600 años. 

Desafortunadamente, como muchos estadounidenses hoy en día, nuestros antepasados cavernícolas no tenían ni idea de la existencia del radón o cuáles son los riesgos a la salud asociados al mismo. Es un gas radioactivo y es la segunda causa principal de cáncer pulmonar.  El radón se puede encontrar en todos los EE.UU. Se puede encontrar en cualquier tipo de edificio, casas, oficinas y escuelas, e incluso en viviendas en las cavernas.

Enero es el Mes de Concienciación sobre el Radón. La única manera de saber si usted está en riesgo de radón es hacer la prueba de radón en su hogar. Es barata y fácil. Es lo que debe hacer para proteger a usted y su familia. Nuestros antepasados antiguos no tenían la tecnología para conocer el radón ni hacer la prueba, pero usted la tiene. Tome ventaja de las maravillas de la edad moderna y protéjase y a su familia, también.

Acerca del autor: Jack Stephen Barnette es un científico medio ambientalista de la oficina de Aire y Radiación en la Región  5 de la EPA en Chicago.  El señor Barnette ha estado trabajando en temas ambientales y de salud ambiental desde el año 1977.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Winter is a Great Time to Test your Home for Radon!

By Larainne Koehler

January is National Radon Action Month.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays is over and, here in New York City, we are having some of the coldest weather in years.  Our doors and windows are closed against the cold, and that’s one of the first steps in getting a good results from a radon test.

By now some of you are asking – “What is radon and why do you need a test for it?”  Others are remembering that they have heard about it, but haven’t taken action yet – what are you waiting for?

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of naturally occurring radium and uranium in the earth.  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall and the LEADING cause in non-smokers.  The EPA estimates that as many as 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year are caused by radon.  Radon is colorless and odorless, so the only way to know if your home has a problem is to test for it.

The EPA and the US Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon and if the levels are high, take steps to lower them.  Now you may be thinking  – “How do I find a test?”  Ready for that one – New Yorkers can get a test kit from the New York State Radon Program by going to their website and downloading an application.  The cost is only $8.50 per test kit.  Follow the instructions and send the kit back to the lab for analysis.   If you are a New Yorker at heart, but not actually living in New York State, you can also get test kits for $15 through the National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University at http://sosradon.org/test-kits

So take a step to protect your health and order a test kit today.  Get more information at www.epa.gov/radon.

About the author: Larainne Koehler is the Radon and Indoor Air Coordinator for EPA Region 2 and has been working on issues associated with indoor air and radon since she joined the agency in 1984.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Radon Testing: It’s So Smart, A Caveman Would Do It!

By Jack Stephen Barnette,

It’s sometimes difficult to remember a time when certain luxuries of today didn’t exist. Smartphones, e-mail, color copy-machines and blogs have become part of our daily lives. There are some things, however, that have been part of human life for a lot longer.

Our ancient grandparents were once keeping warm by the campfire in their cave. And, if hunting was good, they would sit around the fire and enjoy reindeer steaks, muskox stew and roots. The outside air was clean and fresh, but inside the cave the air could be smoky, and, if the geology was right, full of radon gas. Why am I writing about cavemen and radon? Well, it too has ancient ancestors.

All soil has some amount of natural uranium. Uranium has a radiological half-life of a little more than 4.4 billion years. It remains a solid material in soil for eons, but uranium eventually breaks down to radium. The most common form of radium, which also is a solid element, breaks down to radon in roughly 1600 years.

Unfortunately, like many Americans today, our caveman ancestors didn’t have any idea what radon was or the health risks associated with it. It is a radioactive gas and is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon can be found all over the U.S. It can get into any type of building — homes, offices, schools – and even cave dwellings.

January is Radon Awareness Month. The only way to know if you are at risk from radon is to test your home for radon. Testing is cheap and easy, and it’s the right thing to do for you and your family. Our ancient ancestors did not have the technology to know about radon or to test for it; but you do. Please take advantage of the wonders of modern life and protect yourself and your family.

About the author: Jack Stephen Barnette is a Senior Environmental Scientist in the Air and Radiation Division at U.S.EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago. Mr. Barnette has been working on environmental and environmental health issues since 1977.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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It’s Radon Awareness Month!

By: Shelby Egan

Did you know that the month of January is specifically chosen to teach people about radon?  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found radon, a colorless and odorless gas, to be a health risk.  Although I am not a scientist I wanted to learn more about radon, so I interviewed Jack Barnette, a Senior Environmental Scientist at the EPA and a radon expert. 

What is radon and where does it come from?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from uranium and radium in the soil.

What should kids know about radon?

Kids should know that every home, school, daycare center or gathering space should be tested.  Kids should tell their parents that test kits are available at the state or county health department.  All home repair and hardware stores also sell these kits, which are very easy to use and inexpensive.

You mentioned that buildings should be tested with a radon test kit, how does the test kit work? 

Putting together the test kit is quite easy – just follow the instructions that come with the package. It should take less than 10 minutes.

Where do you put the test?

Ideally, the kit should be placed in the lowest lived in space in the home (or the lowest utilized rooms in a school). You should avoid bathrooms, laundry rooms and other areas with high humidity. If it can be hung somewhere in the middle of the room, between 3 and 6 feet off the floor – that would be perfect.

How long does it take to get results?

There are long-term and short-term tests. Long-term tests last more than 90 days. A short-term test is less than 90 days. Most home test kits are designed to take only 3 or 4 days.

How do you know if you’ve been exposed to radon?

You don’t really know if you have been exposed because you can’t see, smell or taste radon.  The only way to know is to buy a test kit.

What are the side effects of radon?

Radon doesn’t have any irritating symptoms, but the EPA has declared radon to be a health risk.  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking.

How does radon get into schools?

Radon gets into buildings through cracks and/or openings that are exposed to the ground, especially in basements. 

What if my school is a new building that has been built in the past 5 years?  Does the age of the building affect whether radon can get inside?

Any building, new or old can have a radon problem. The only way to tell is by testing. One way that radon can enter a building is through cracks in the basement walls or floor. So, an old building with lots of cracks in the foundation might be a prime candidate for radon issues.

Can radon occur in both houses and apartments?

Yes, it can occur in any building.  Because people spend more than 90% of their time indoors, it is most dangerous in homes or schools where a lot of people spend their time.

So now that you know all the facts about radon, grab a parent and test your home for radon!

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Celebrating Children’s Health Month

By Maureen O’Neill

So why are you reading this?  Are you interested, worried or want to take action?  For you then, here’s some good and bad news.

Let’s do the good first.  There is a wealth of information on every children’s health topic you can imagine.  Chances are, if you are reading this, you’ve already been exposed to topics like lead, methylmercury, PCBs and goodness knows what else.  If you haven’t and want an overview, you can check out the websites of EPA, CDC, NIEHS and many others.

I am a professed info junkie and although I try, I can’t keep up with everything.  I don’t know anyone who can.  So I focus in on what I need to know and be sure I’m looking at some of the topical sources to see what’s going on.  My own favorite for this is Environmental Health News which lands in your mailbox every day.

Are you a parent or someone worried about a child’s exposure and what it means?  Do you need to get professional advice?  We have a Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit serving the region (NJ, NY, Puerto Rico and the USVI) at Mt. Sinai.  These are docs who specialize in environmental health topics and you can get a free phone consultation.  The PEHSU also provide clinical consultation and education for health care professionals, public health officials, and community organizations with concerns regarding children’s environmental health.  See more here.

Here’s the not so good part.  There’s a lot of information on children’s health out there, of varying quality, and many of the topics have emerging science.  That means that frequently there aren’t good clear yes/no answers that we all want to have.  So, what to do?

I think the smartest thing is to be protective of your kids, have fun with them and practice the best tips I know.  Go to http://www2.epa.gov/children to see how to help your kids breathe easier, protect them from lead poisoning, keep pesticides and other toxics away from children and protect them from carbon monoxide, contaminated fish, radon and other environmental hazards.  We can’t protect children from everything, but if you follow these steps, you are giving your children the best.

About the author: Maureen O’Neill is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Region’s Office of Strategic Programs. Her focus is targeting environmental programs and resources to issues impacting environmental health, with a particular focus on at-risk children. Prior to her New York assignment, her work involved water issues, both domestic and international. She has been involved with the United States Government Middle East Peace Process focusing on water issues.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Scientists Working For You

By Rey Rivera

When you woke up this morning, did you ponder for a few minutes about how science contributes to your life from the moment you open your eyes (and even while you’re asleep)? I bet you didn’t.

Many of us go from sleeping in a room with clean air, depending on an alarm clock to wake up, taking a warm shower with clean water, to enjoying a healthy breakfast without even stopping for a second to think about all the scientific knowledge that is put in practice for our benefit and comfort throughout the day.

Among the scientists that contribute to the enjoyment of your daily life are the thousands of scientists who work here in the EPA. In our case, we analyze scientific facts and provide you with easily understandable information to help you protect your environment, your health and your family’s health.

Would you like to learn about protecting your family from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, or about asthma triggers?  Or what about pesticides, or radon? Would you like to know more about new technologies to cleanup sites contaminated with hazardous wastes? Or what about water quality and water conservation?

Those and many other questions could be answered with a few clicks on EPA’s website, talking with our experts, or checking out ongoing scientific projects in our Office of Research & Development.

While in school, the realization of how important science is in our lives and how much it could help others lead me in the direction of becoming a scientist myself. My 25 career in EPA has been a very gratifying experience that gives me the satisfaction of being able to put in practice my scientific training to contribute to the quality of life of many people.

Now, in this busy life that many of us have –enjoying the amazing products that science give us– I invite you to pause for a moment, look around you and realize just how much we owe to the knowledge that science discovers and put into productive use. And if you cross paths with a scientist, please say thank you… I’m sure he or she is very pleased to be working for you.

About the author: Reiniero (“Rey”) Rivera started working for the EPA in 1987 as an environmental engineer in the Chicago regional office and currently works in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance in Washington DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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PEYA Summit Blog

studentsWe were thrilled to receive an invitation to the White House Summit on Environmental Education on April 16, 2012 to receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). This award was created to recognize the outstanding work of young people in their environmental community. We were the winners in Region 8 which consists of CO, ND, SD, WY, MT, and UT.

We came from Colorado and our project was spreading the word in our state about radon and how it can cause lung cancer. It is easy to test for radon in your home with a simple test kit. We spoke to city councils, at community events, and at our State Capitol on the dangers of Radon. We presented at the National Radon Conference and International Radon Symposium in Florida.

The Summit experience was enlightening. It was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White. We were excited to hear speeches by the Honorable Lisa Jackson, the  Administrator of the EPA, and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. We had a roundtable discussion where we shared our projects with the winners from other regions.  We came home inspired by their ideas.

We encourage other kids in the US to pursue environmental projects to make us safer, to conserve resources, and to make our world a healthier place to live in. Many environmental issues affect our health and that’s important to us as kids. Getting involved in your community is one of the best things you can contribute.

Eric and Christina Bear from Golden, Colorado were a 2011 President’s Environmental Youth Award winner.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Local Artist Warns about the Dangers of Radon

Even though today is officially the last day of National Radon Action Month, unhealthy levels of radon in households across the U.S. is an especially serious issue during cold winter months, when windows and doors are kept closed. EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck caught up with NYC resident and LaGuardia high school student Laura Dabalsa, the first place winner in the EPA and Kansas State University’s national Radon Poster Contest. In this candid video segment, the Regional Administrator explains that high levels of radon can be fixed simply and inexpensively so long as we all do our part to assist in promoting public awareness. Tune in to the clip below for a great shot of Laura’s poster, a fitting example of how art can be used educate the public on the dangers of radon.

[flv width=”480″ height=”351″]http://www.epa.gov/region02/mediacenter/video/2012_national_radon_poster_conest_winner_hires.flv[/flv]

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Working Together to Reduce Radon Exposure

By Philip Jalbert

I am very excited and proud to be part of a small team of EPA employees that is taking on an issue that is important to me both professionally and personally. The project is unprecedented in that it addresses a serious health risk: radioactive radon gas. Radon causes lung cancer and kills more than 21,000 Americans every year. An aunt of mine died of lung cancer at 56 – neither she nor anyone in her family ever smoked.

Last summer, the Federal government announced a Federal Radon Action Plan for protecting families from this unseen hazard. It culminated six months of intense and collaborative effort among several major Departments and Agencies. We need more collaboration like this, something not seen often enough in the Federal government.

More than 20 years ago radon debuted as a public health issue when a nuclear power plant worker set off radiation alarms going to work – he had a very high radon level in his home! The plan is the first to take a coordinated long-term approach to reducing the health risk from radon across federal agencies. The plan will focus on the millions of homes and schools the Feds control or influence. We are hoping that our actions will motivate the private sector, state and local governments to take more action.

As a nation we’ve made progress, yet today eight million American households are exposed to more than 4 picocuries of radon per liter of air – EPA’s recommended action level. Last year about 124,000 Americans took action to reduce the radon level in their homes. America’s home builders included radon reducing features in nearly 17% of all new homes. r

We hope this unprecedented plan will make the radon risk more visible, spur action and help save lives; especially those of low-income Americans without the resources to reduce their risk. You can learn more about the plan on our Federal Radon Action Plan website.

I’ve been with EPA since 1983 and first encountered radon while serving the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine program four decades ago. My work on radon since 1989 has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. Test your home, the life you save may be your own.

About the author: Philip Jalbert presently works in EPA’s Indoor Environments Division in Washington, DC.

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 here 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.

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A Healthier You In 2012

By Lina Younes

At the beginning of the year, I decided that 2012 was going to be the year for me to get healthier. I thought that if I used that as my guiding light for the months ahead, this resolution would likely survive beyond the month of January.

Granted that in order to get healthier, I needed to make some changes to my daily habits. Lifestyle changes and making better choices are definitely required to be successful in reaching my goal. There is no doubt that losing weight seems to be in everyone’s top five New Year resolutions. However when the pounds don’t come off as fast as we like, we are likely to be disillusioned and return to our unhealthy practices. So, what are some of the lifestyle changes that I’ve made to achieve my healthier goal? Well, I’ve started by making healthier eating choices. How about eating more fruits and vegetables? How about looking at our  old cookbooks for creative recipes that not only include healthier foods, but add some variety to the menu? How about exercising more? I’m not talking necessarily about going on the treadmill that has been collecting dust in the basement. I mean we can take longer walks even when we walk our dog. That’s a nice way of getting some fresh air and getting some exercise without really trying. Also, don’t forget the sun block even if it’s wintertime.

What other choices can we make to have a healthier lifestyle?

  • Well, reducing the amount of clutter around the home is a great start to get in the right state of mind.
  • Increasing our recycling rate is another good habit at home and at work.
  • Testing your home for radon will also help you to have a healthier home.
  • Reading the label first before using household chemical products and pesticides

These are just a few of  the healthy habits that should lead to a healthier 2012. Why don’t you commit to taking action for a healthier you and a healthier environment? Visit EPA’s Pick 5 for some suggestions.

As always, we would like to hear from you. What have you done to make 2012 a healthier year for you and your family?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government 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 here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.