A Radon Action Plan released June 20 by nine agencies across the federal government marks a historic interagency collaboration aimed at addressing exposure to radon, a serious public health risk.
"Radon causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. every year," said R. William Field, Ph.D., national radon expert and University of Iowa professor of occupational and environmental health and epidemiology in the College of Public Health.
Radon is the leading environmental cause of cancer mortality in North America, according to Field. Field's conclusion, based on studies that he led as well as findings from other radon-related epidemiology studies, is cited in the plan, "Protecting People and Families from Radon: A Federal Action Plan for Saving Lives."
"Few homes are tested for radon, in large part due to lack of understanding of the seriousness of the risk, and few locations require radon-resistant new construction even in high-risk radon zones," Field continued. "We know how to build radon-resistant housing; it's relatively easy to do, cost-effective and will greatly limit radon cancer risks for future generations. The federal government has the power to change housing and is taking the lead with this action plan."
As outlined in the plan, the federal government is seeking to leverage and advance existing state, local and national programs while leading by example to reduce radon risks simply and affordably. Through its network of residential, educational and care facilities as well as programs that address health, prevention, housing and finance, the federal government is poised to directly or indirectly affect change in an estimated 7.5 million homes, schools and daycare facilities.
The Federal Radon Action Plan contains both an array of current federal government actions to reduce radon risks and a series of new commitments for immediate and future action from nine agencies.