Select A Department:

Courses in this Department

How to Make Your Home Healthy and Safe

Build a Safe Home Playground

Make Your Home a Safe Haven for Kids

Avoid Grill Fires, Explosions and CO Poisoning

Don't Let a Burglar Ruin Your Vacation

Is Your Tap Water Safe?

Are Your Cleaning Products Making Your Family Ill?

Localities Crack Down on Homeowners Alarm Calls

Radon Sends Ripples through Water Systems

Are you a Hazardous Waste Case?


Radon Sends Ripples through Water Systems

On the verge of an expected EPA rule to control radon in drinking water, a familiar home health threat is taking on new implications and costs for homeowners and communities. Known since the 1980s as a naturally occurring source of indoor air pollution, radon is now being targeted for controls under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Control measures will increase municipal water technology and maintenance costs, to the tune of $30 million in Tucson, Arizona, for example.

Radon is a radioactive gas and the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., according to U.S. EPA. The EPA estimates that radon is responsible for some 20,000 lung cancer deaths a year in the United States. The risks are most acute for cigarette smokers.

In certain areas across the country, radon found in the soil underneath homes results in indoor air emissions at unhealthy levels. That is why EPA recommends that home sellers and homebuyers get a radon test prior to completing a home sales transaction, and to make sure the testing firm is familiar with EPA protocols. The EPA now recommends limiting the annual average of radon in indoor air to 4 picocuries per liter. A picocurie is a measure of radioactive emissions.

Congress in 1996 mandated new rules on radon in drinking water, to get at radon released by faucets and showers into indoor air. EPA is expected to issue the rules next month, and that's causing a stir in many communities including Tucson, Arizona. Among other things, the new rule would require municipal water systems to achieve the 4 picocurie limit in indoor air.

But during a meeting of the Tucson Town Council, Tucson Water officials told the council that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and other state agencies are attacking the proposed indoor air standard as unworkable. The only alternative is to shut down wells that don't comply with the 300-picocurie water limit in the rule. In addition, the water utility said the city would spend up to $30 million in capital funds for equipment needed to eradicate radon, and $1 million a year to maintain operations.

Where's the money coming from? The homeowner, of course. In most communities, the utility would have to raise user rates to cover the capital and maintenance costs associated with the new rule.

Sources used to create this article include writer Maureen O'Connell and The Arizona Daily Star.