Radon killing 20,000 Americans per year

The USA's environmental regulators have gone on the offensive against radon, flagging up the risks the radioactive gas can pose in homes and schools.

The Environmental Protection Agency has flagged up January as National Radon Action Month saying the gas is a real threat, with an estimated 20,000 people dying every year in the US from radon-related lung cancer.

This year the EPA is using three initiatives to highlight the problem – a poster competition for schools, a video-based publicity campaign and links with new WHO guidance.

Last September, EPA joined the World Health Organisation’s first global call-to-action on cancer risk from radon.

WHO’s Handbook on Indoor Radon represents collaboration by 30 countries seeking to understand and overcome the risks posed by radon while demonstrating the consensus that radon is a global public health risk.

The WHO guidance also helps countries establish or expand radon programmes.

The EPA has been working with schools, asking pupils to design posters to be used in a wider awareness campaign while providing education in the classroom about the subject.

“The National Radon Poster Contest is a great way to teach students and parents about the dangers of radon,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

“Testing and fixing homes for radon helps save lives in communities across the country.”

The final strand to the radon awareness promotion campaign is a series of hard-hitting public health video adverts including interviews with lung cancer survivors.

The EPA estimates that over the past 20 years its radon-awareness raising campaigns have saved 6,000 lives.

Radon is a colourless, odourless gas that is emitted in varying concentrations according to local geology.

It is a relatively simple process to put a membrane and ventilation beneath the floors of a building to ensure the gas is released rather than building up within its confines.

Sam Bond

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