There is a saying: “The truth is what is so.”
The truth is---what is so.
Ponder this for a moment…..
After recent events here in the rain, it should be obvious to everyone just how true this statement is. There is tremendous danger in “assuming” that what we think is true---is in fact true. It is entirely possible for large numbers of people to be misinformed by non-digital information as much as we can be fooled by digital information.
Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that in some cases it may not even be possible to know what the truth is. It is obvious to me that when it comes to those sorts of things---it is best to keep an open mind.
When the government "gets on board" and says something is “so” it becomes even more difficult to keep an open mind. In fact, the government's simply saying something is “so,” is enough to convince most people---end of discussion. When that happens, a chain of events that affects anyone tied into, and dependent on, the government's information stream is affected. I find this fascinating in light of how most of us at one time or another speaks of not trusting the government. Just look at all the bickering about how the government handles almost anything. Yet when it comes to other things we just turn into the Stepford Wives.
While the psychology of all of this would make for a better subject of a book, as opposed to a blog post, I will do my best to keep this from turning into a book.
Today I want to talk about Radon---and raise the question: "What is the real truth about radon?
Rather than claim that I personally know what the “truth” is, I am going to attempt to show that there is at least the possibility that there may be a truth that is different than what one is used to hearing regarding Radon. I would ask that you keep an open mind and check out the hard science behind Radon. If you start to dig deep, you will notice that a lot of what is claimed about radon is in fact parroting of information that is dubious at best.
So what is Radon?
1. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. It is a result of the decay of uranium and is present to some degree everywhere on the planet. It is found in higher concentrations in some areas of the country than in other areas. If that was all we had to know about radon, life would be simple.
2. Radon is a multi-billion dollar industry. There is a tremendous amount of money to be made by testing for radon and mitigation of radon. Like other fear based industries it is fairly easy to get people on board with misinformation and half-truths. Once on board and invested, it is very difficult to jump off the wagon.
So which is closer to the truth? Are both the truth? Well obviously the first statement is true. Perhaps not so obvious---the second statement is true as well.
Now let’s visit the science behind the claims that Radon is a health risk. If there was no purported health concern regarding Radon there would be no industry built up around it.
I will start out by quoting Forensic Industrial Hygienist, Caoimhin Connell: “A large portion of the general population is under the misconception that the frequently published risks associated with radon are well accepted scientific facts. In reality, the vast majority of well designed studies do not support policy or positions that exposures to indoor radon pose a significant threat to health, and indeed, the majority of those studies indicate that, at concentrations typically seen in homes, as the level of radon increases, the risk of lung cancer goes down, not up.”
Now I don’t know about you, but this sounds HUGELY different than what we are used to hearing from those that have a vested interest in promoting radon as being a problem.
A blog post is an extremely poor means to cover this topic adequately. The most I can hope for is that my post will peak your interest enough to read the “story” behind this topic on your own. As an introduction to the topic I recommend reading, Radon—A Brief Discussion, by Caoimhin P. Connell. This article is where the above quote came from, and after reading it I suspect that most will find it difficult to not at least question the claims made by the EPA.
It is important to keep in mind that political organizations such as the EPA (we would love to think they are “neutral” wouldn’t we?), while they produce reports that attest to the elevated risk associated with radon, according to Caoimhin Connell, “to date (2010) there are no scientific studies that have ever actually shown that radon gas, as typically seen in houses, increases the risk of cancer.” In a position statement by the Health Physics Society “…risks of health effects are either too small to be observed or are non-existent.” The EPA itself even admits that there is no hard evidence to support the notion that Radon causes cancer at levels found in homes, but instead extrapolates its version of the truth from the fact that it is carcinogenic in amounts that miners are exposed to. Such an extrapolation is simply not supported by current knowledge.
Other interesting stuff that one can find, if one digs into the literature far enough (and is thoroughly discussed in Radon—A Brief Discussion) is that not only does the presence of radon in homes not increase the risk of cancer but that in homes with lower than normal levels of radon, health risks actually slightly increase. Exactly backwards of what the radon industry would have one believe.
In a study undertaken by Richard E. Thompson, and published in 2011 (EPIDEMIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR POSSIBLE RADIATION HORMESIS FROM RADON EXPOSURE: A CASE-CONTROL STUDY CONDUCTED IN WORCESTER, MA) it was also found that Radon exposure in homes actually decreases the risk of lung cancers. So that no one has to look it up, "Hormesis" is the principle that some things that are harmful in large doses actually have a beneficial effect in small doses. Doesn't his sound like so many things we consume? While Radon clearly has a detrimental effect on human tissue at the levels found in mines, there is no comparison between the very highest levels found in homes in relation to levels found in mines---and certainly no comparison behind levels "typical" of homes that are considered to be in "actionable" areas.
The EPA has added two new studies to its website that attempts to deal with the criticism that concerns about radon were improperly extrapolated from studies of miners exposed to HUGE doses of radon. These studies, called "pooling studies," are where one combines the results of many studies and attempts to come up with conclusions more to one's liking than would otherwise be gleaned from the studies individually. Of course this is a bit "cynical" interpretation, but pretty much what this pooling approach amounts to.
While I realize that I am in full and familiar uniform as Don Quixote (those that know me have seen me ride this horse before) when it comes to doing battle with the Giant Radon Industry, I will end my ride today hoping that you will do a little more real investigation of the topic on your own.
With a squeaking and crunching of armor I will leave you with this important excerpt from, U.S. Department of Energy, (Radon- Radon Research Program, FY 1989, DOE/ER-448P., March 1990), “Currently there is very little information about...the health effects associated with exposures to radon at levels believed to be commonly encountered by the public. The only human data available for predicting the risks to the public are studies examining the health effects of exposure to radon and its progeny in underground miners. This information would be appropriate for predicting the risks to the public if everyone was a miner, everyone lived in mines, and a large fraction of the general population smoked cigarettes.”
Based on the 2011 study by Richard E. Thompson, this statement is just as true today as it was in 1990 and is likely why every other TV add is not about the dangers of radon, why there aren’t Radon billboards on every street corner or the sides of every bus, and why most of the information and warnings we do hear about radon is from the industry that is built-up around it---a case of following the money.
Charles Buell, real estate inspections in Seattle
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board