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Radon roundup results.

Radon roundup results

The federal government has estimated that 20 percent of the homes in the United States have excessive amounts of radon--a radioactive gas that can seep into homes from certain types of rock and soil and, in high concentrations, can cause lung cancer. In an effort to develop a means of predicting what areas might have a radon problem, Douglas G. Mose of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and his colleagues are studying the relationship between geology and radon levels in Fairfax County and in Montgomery County, Md.

The researchers conducted their survey by randomly sending indoor radon detectors and a set of instructions to more than 1,500 homes. They found that homes built over highly sheared rock and uranium-rich granites are more prone to having indoor radon concentrations above 4 picocuries per liter, which is the "action level' set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Houses overlying low-grade metamorphic rocks, especially the common rocks known as schists, also have high indoor radon counts. The agency recommends that indoor radon should be below the action level.

Radon enters houses through sump pump openings, porous building materials and foundation cracks. Its concentrations in a house can depend on the daily weather and the season.

Mose found that soil studies could also help pinpoint problem areas. The survey showed that permeable soils with high radon concentrations are highly correlated with excessive indoor radon levels.

The survey cross-tested two types of indoor monitors to gauge how each measured the average radon levels in a home. One type, which features activated charcoal, is widely used by many state and local testing programs. But Mose found that the charcoal monitors "are extremely poor in thier ability to measure the annual radon level in the home.' These devices can sample only for a three-day period. Alpha-track monitors, which sample for three months, yielded a much more accurate average of the fluctuating radon levels, says Mose.
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Author:Monastersky, Ricard
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 21, 1987
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