]]]]]]]  Beware of EPA's Flawed Radon-Cancer Connection   [[[[[[[[[[[
                      By Warren T. Brookes                (8/11/1989)
           [From Human Events, 12 August 1989, p. 13]

             [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   Recently, the FBI arrested radical environmentalists in Phoenix
for conspiring to sabotage two nuclear power plants.
   Unfortunately,   the  FBI   can't  arrest   the  Environmental
Protection  Agency's (EPA)  official  terrorists who  are scaring
down  the property  values of  innocent homeowners  with warnings
about radon.
   The  United States  has adopted  the  lowest risk  standard on
earth, five times  as low as  Canada's, even though  there is not
the  slightest  epidemiological  evidence  that  radon  poses any
significant health hazard  in America, unless you  happen to be a
uranium miner who smokes heavily.
     Unfortunately, the radon risk  standard is typical of the
zero-risk thinking  underlying the Bush  clean air program, as well.
   In late June, in Albuquerque, N.M., Dr. Ralph Lapp, one of the
nation's  leading radiation  experts,  presented a  paper  to the
prestigious  Health Physics  Society that  blew away  EPA's radon
risk standard.  His findings were supported by Dr. William Mills,
the man who wrote the original EPA standard!
   In it,  Lapp took  EPA's measurements  of radon  in New Jersey
homes and  particularly in Morris  County, which is  the heart of
what geologists call ``the Reading Prong,'' a high radon area.
   In that area,  EPA shows average  radon screening measurements
of 8.2 picocuries per  liter (pcl).  That is  double what EPA has
set as the ``remedial  action'' level of 4  pcl.  Using EPA's own
risk  calculation, this  exposure alone  should produce  377 lung
cancer  deaths (LCDs)  per  year, over  and  above smoking-caused
   However, in Xel of Morris County,  there were only 190 LCDs in
1986.  So, as Dr. Lapp observes, ``There is no way that the radon
concentration  levels   EPA  shows   could  be   true.   This  is
undoubtedly because EPA readings are screening measurements which
are   worst-case,  wintertime,   no   ventilation,  and   in  the
   So Dr. Lapp adjusted these  measurements to get average likely
exposure.   This  still  produced numbers  that,  using  EPA risk
assumptions, would  suggest 152 LCDs  a year from  radon alone in
Morris County. But there were only a grand total of 190 LCDs, and
it is agreed that smoking accounts for over 80 per cent of them.
   ``Something is wrong here,'' says  Dr. Lapp.  ``It must be the
risk factor developed by the  EPA.''  To test that hypothesis, he
then looks at EPA's measurements of pcl concentrations throughout
other  New  Jersey  counties,   particularly  the  coastal  plain
counties, where the radon readings are a very low 1.8 pcl.
   If  the  EPA   were  right,  those   counties  should  show  a
demonstrably lower rate of lung  cancer deaths -- after adjusting
for age.  But when  Lapp looked at the  age-adjusted LCD rates of
the coastal plain  low-radon counties (average  of 69), they were
all significantly higher  than the Reading  Prong counties, which
had an LCD rate of about 62 (see table).
   In short,  there was  an 11  percent higher  lung cancer death
rate in the  area where homes had  only 20 per  cent of the radon
exposure in the Reading Prong!  Not only is there no demonstrated
radon risk,  there is at  least a hint  that up to  a point radon
might be therapeutic!
   Before you  laugh, that  is precisely  the implication  of the
seminal  work  of   Dr.  Bernard  Cohen   of  the  University  of
Pittsburgh,  who, in  a scholarly  1987  paper in  Health Physics
Journal, showed that  ``all geographic areas  that had been found
to have high radon levels had relatively low lung cancer rates.''
   Dr. Cohen's exhaustive 1985  research covered Sweden, Finland,
England  and China,  as well  as  the Reading  Prong area  of New
Jersey and  Pennsylvania, using published  radon measurements and
health data.
   Because this 1985  data so destroyed  EPA's radon-risk theory,
Dr. Cohen ``started on a  vigorous new program of measuring radon
levels   in   homes,  accompanying   each   measurement   with  a
questionnaire to provide  additional information.''  Using 68,000
purchased radon measurements and  random free measurements in 411
U.S. counties,  Dr. Cohen's  new study,  soon to  be published in
Health Physics, finds:
   ``Lung cancer rates  in counties tend  to strongly decrease as
average radon levels  increase and vice  versa.  The effect seems
to be statistically unquestionable.  This is in sharp contrast to
the  (EPA)  prediction  that lung  cancer  rates  should increase
substantially as average radon levels increase.''
   How  can  this  be?   The answer  is  that  EPA's  whole radon
hypothesis depends on one very badly flawed 1968 study of uranium
miners whose  high LCD rates  from very high  radon exposure were
then ``extrapolated'' for low exposure levels.
   But in the first place, most of the miners were heavy smokers,
so it was impossible to tell  how much radon was the culprit.  In
the second place, it took 2,500 ``working level months'' (WLM) of
this high exposure to  radon gas to produce  a single lung cancer
death.    Even   accepting  EPA's   overstated   measurements  of
residential  exposure,  its present  risk  level of  4  pcl would
produce only a lifetime exposure of 14 WLMs.
   Dr. Cohen says this translates into a six-tenths per cent risk
of dying  from lung  cancer from  residential radon,  or slightly
less than the risk from drinking tap water in normal quantities.

   [The following table appeared on p. 13, columns 2 and 3.])

                      Radon and Lung Cancer
Counties         Average EPA Radon Level  1986 Lung Cancer Deaths
                    (picocuries/liter)           per 1,000
New Jersey .......         5.4                      64
Reading Prong ....         8.2                      62
Morris County ....         8.2                      64
Coastal Plain ....         1.8                      69
Ocean County .....         1.6                      74
Other States
   Pennsylvania ..         6.2                      64
   Alabama .......         1.8                      63
   Kentucky ......         2.7                      65
   Missouri ......         2.6                      68
Sources: EPA and American Cancer Society.

      [The following is not part of the original article.]


Bodansky, D., Robkin, M. A. and Stadler, D. R., Eds. 1987,
   Indoor Radon and its Hazards. Seattle, WA: University of
   Washington Press.
Luckey, Thomas D. 1980, Hormesis With Ionizing Radiation. Boca
   Raton, FL: CRC Press.

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