clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

EPA's radon scare is a false alarm

The Environmental Protection Agency, whose business it is to scare people, has been ringing a false alarm about radon and lung cancer for most of the past decade. Already the EPA alarmists have cost Americans a wasted $400 million and countless hours of worry over the health of their children.

Never mind. The agency's radon warnings have been toned down a bit - reducing the estimate of radon-caused deaths in the country from 20,000 a year to 14,000 while soft-pedaling the annual alarm - but EPA careerists are sticking with their debunked claim of radon gas as the "second leading cause of lung cancer" in America.That frightening prospect of colorless and odorless radon gas emissions seeping from underground deposits into homes and schools and other buildings and killing thousands of victims it afflicts with lung cancer has been exposed as a fraud in a series of studies since the EPA touched off its first false alarm in 1987.

The early EPA radon alarms - which, coincidentally or not, were customarily announced during the Halloween season - were widely broadcast with the usual assertion of 20,000 deaths nationwide and an accompanying hobgoblin report on some new "hot spot" of death-dealing radon discovered in the country.

Now, while not backing off or apologizing to Americans who may have been thoroughly frightened by the EPA false alarms, the agency is still trying to scare people.

It is, in an era of citizen mistrust, a milestone of outrageous bureaucratic conduct when the EPA keeps warning of sickness and death due to radon when no proof has been presented linking "high" radon readings with lung cancer and when contrary scientific findings have been reported by competent authorities elsewhere in the nation and the world.

Even back when the first radon alarm was set off by the EPA, documents the agency claimed to be authentic authority were, in fact, not proof of cancer deaths in family homes and schools but surveys from the 1950s of lung cancer among uranium miners, most of them heavy smokers.

While the EPA alarmists claimed to have "extrapolated" the estimates of annual radon deaths nationwide from the miners' study, one reference cited as authority by the EPA actually warned - in language never used by the EPA - that the miners' study was tentative and filled with "uncertainties."

A key passage in that study by the National Research Council suggested: "Users (of the study) must be aware of the uncertainties that affect the estimates of the lung cancer risk due to exposure to radon progeny given in this report."

Relying on such flimsy "evidence" of what the EPA fright-peddlers came to suggest in subsequent announcements as a threatening epidemic of radon sickness, the agency also began spotlighting specific areas as radon "hot spots." But the "hot spots" weren't.

After EPA alarms about locations in Iowa and later in New Jersey, health authorities in both states said they were unaware of any correlation between the EPA-designated "hot spots" and incidence of lung cancer and that lung cancer cases in those areas were no different from national averages.

When the EPA and other environmentalists complain their warnings are not always taken seriously, they should consider the radon false alarms that are still ringing.