Marcellus Shale gas is not responsible for the highest levels of the radioactive gas, radon, ever reported in Pennsylvania in homes, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has decided.
Radon is the second cause of lung cancer after smoking, with about 21,000 Americans dying from lung cancer caused by exposure to radon every year.
Early this month, the DEP reported a concentration of 3,715 picocuries per liter in one home, with several others in concentrations more than 1,000.
The EPA recommends taking action for levels at or above 4 picocuries per liter.
Exposed to levels of a rate of 20 picocuries per liter, 36 out of 1,000 nonsmokers could develop lung cancer, according to the EPA publication “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon.” The rate is 260 per 1,000 for smokers.
When the high levels of radon first became a public knowledge, many people pointed to a 2012 paper by Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., of Brooklyn-based Radioactive Waste Management Associates, linking Marcellus Shale gas with high concentrations of radon. He predicted that burning Marcellus Shale gas in homes through local utilities could lead to a range of 1,182 to 30,448 new lung cancer deaths.
The DEP has since denied any connection between shale gas and high concentrations of radon. DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly quoted a 2012 U.S. Geological Survey study of radon levels in natural gas well heads and water separators on the well pad. The survey found levels ranging from 1 to 79 picocuries per liter, with a median of 37.
The report referenced Dr. Resnikoff’s paper, saying it “relied on theoretical calculations utilizing limited data from geologic analogs.” That’s why the survey’s scientists released their “small and preliminary dataset” of actual measurements at the wellhead, the report states.
The DEP believes that higher than average concentrations of radon in Pennsylvania are due to local geology. Natural decaying uranium in rocks, soil and water releases radon, which drifts into the air and accumulates indoors, pooling first in the lowest floors of a structure.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has urged people to test their homes for radon. Affordable do-it-yourself radon test kits are available online, at many home improvement and hardware stores, or you can hire a qualified radon professional – the EPA press release says.
If your test result is 4 pCi/L or more, you should contact a qualified radon-reduction or mitigation contractor.
A professionally installed radon reduction system removes the radon from beneath your home and discharges it harmlessly outside. That’s done by using a vent pipe and exhaust fan – the press release explains.
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