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.

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