Friday, April 10, 2015

Cancer-causing radon levels 39% higher in buildings near Pennsylvania shale gas wells, study says

Levels of cancer-causing radon in rural and suburban buildings near Pennsylvania shale gas wells are 39 percent higher than in buildings in urban areas, said a study by Johns Hopkins University published in Environmental Health Perspectives, John Hurdle and Susan Phillips report for State Impact.

Researchers analyzed radon levels from about 860,000 homes from 1989 to 2013, finding that radon levels rose significantly in 2004 when the state's fracking boom began, Hurdle and Phillips write. They "also found that buildings using well water had a 21 percent higher concentration of radon than those served by municipal water systems." (Johns Hopkins graphic)
"Overall, 42 percent of the buildings analyzed had radon concentrations at over 4 picocuries per liter, the level at which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends remediation, and which is about three times the national average for indoor air," Hurdle and Phillips writes. "According to EPA, there are about 21,000 radon-related lung cancers per year in the U.S."

The Johns Hopkins report contradicts a report released in January by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Hurdle and Phillips write. "The DEP spent more than a year studying exposure risks to naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) during oil and gas production and concluded there is 'little potential for harm to workers or the public.'” (Read more)

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