Guest Blog: My Favorite Green Things
Kristy Miller works in EPA's Air and Radiation Office.
This Holiday season driving to the Midwest in my jam-packed car, I had the radio tuned to Dr. Mehmet Oz (you know him; he's Oprah's favorite doctor in green scrubs). Dr. Oz is fast becoming my favorite doc too. I tipped my hat when I heard him tell America that radon in homes is a leading cause of lung cancer and it's easy to get your home tested and fixed for this invisible radioactive gas that's a silent killer. (I couldn't have scripted him any better myself!)
It so happened that my car was packed with some of “my favorite things” to give away to family and friends-- radon test kits. January is National Radon Action Month and my friends are protecting their families using their newly-gifted test kits.
Radon in homes is everyone's equal opportunity environmental health risk. Regardless of what type of home you live in, new or old, basement or not, it could have high radon; and, regardless of where you live it's been found in every state. EPA estimates one in 15 homes will have a high level. The only way to determine if your home has high radon is to test for it; the good news is any home can be “fixed” relatively easily.
Radon seeps into homes undetected from underground soil gases produced by decaying uranium inside the earth. About 20 years ago we learned that homes can act like a plastic bag trapping unhealthy radon levels inside.
In 1998 Harvard's School of Public Health ranked breathing indoor radon as the highest preventable home risk contributing to premature death. The experts estimate radon causes 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Without any federal mandates, EPA's role is to keep this silent environmental health risk in front of Americans who might otherwise "forget about it".
So how's EPA doing against this radioactive threat?
Starting from a baseline of zero public awareness 20 years ago, here's the estimated progress:
• 75% of Americans have heard of radon;
• 20% of homes have been tested;
• One million high homes have been fixed;
• Some 1.5 million new homes built with radon-resistant features.
So far, we've saved about 6,000 lives—our goal is to double that, saving 12,000 lives, by 2012.
The ultimate way to beat this cancer risk is to build new homes with radon-resistant features. New for 2008, EPA has a building green media campaign with Fuad Reveiz , a member of the National Association of Home Builders. Fuad says building new homes radon-resistant is a win-win because it's a simple and cost-effective way to offer the benefit of a healthier home.
A radon test kit is the perfect gift for every family and for every occasion. (I betcha Oprah will have radon test kits on her “favorite things” list soon too!)
Learn more at www.epa.gov/radon or call 1-800-SOS-RADON