Earth Day: A Two-Way Street

By Tom Hatton, CEO

On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day, I was in the second grade. That first Earth Day influenced my life outlook and career path. Even today my desire for Environmental Stewardship continues to drive all that we do at Clean Vapor. Our primary focus is creating healthier indoor air environments for people by depressurizing soils below buildings through precision diagnostics, design, installation, and remote motoring.

What is not talked about on Earth Day is protecting people from the Earth.

It is estimated that 21,000 people die annually from radon induced lung cancer in the United States. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is released from the decay of uranium in the soil. Low pressures within homes and buildings draw radon and other contaminants from the soil into the occupied space. The EPA’s standard for corrective action for radon is 4.0 pico Curies per liter (pCi/l) which equates to 2.2 atomic particle releases per minute per liter of air.

An adult’s total lung capacity is about six liters of air. This equates to a significant radiation exposure. At 4.0 pCi/l the risk for nonsmokers to contract lung cancer over a lifetime is 7 in 1,000. In fact, the EPA states that radon is the most toxic element it regulates considering that most man-made chemical exposures are regulated to a 1 in 100,000 or 1 in 1,000,000 cancer risk.

Since the Indoor Radon Abatement Act of 1988 over 700,000 Americans have died from radon induced lung cancer.  This is more deaths than all foreign wars combined and only slightly exceeded by COVID-19.

The rate at which new homes are being constructed is about equal to the rate at which existing homes with radon are being mitigated. Multi-family construction is outpacing single family construction at a rate of 28 to 1.  In this style of construction, approximately one third of the dwellings are ground floor units where the floor slab has direct contact with the soil. Hurried construction practices often provide a pathway for radon to be drawn from the soil into the occupied space.  As a society, we are treading water when it comes to the resolution of this serious health problem.

As we engage in Earth Day activities, whether it’s physically removing trash from our roadsides and streams or possibly a more in-depth remediation of soil and groundwater; the latter which takes long term planning and hundreds of thousands of dollars, there is something very simple that you can do to protect yourself from the hazards of the earth. That is to test your home and workplace for radon gas. Testing is relatively inexpensive. If your radon test indicates concentrations above 4.0 pCi/l, or even 2.0 pCi/l where the lung cancer risk is 3.5 per 1,000, it is recommended that you mitigate your indoor air environment. As we celebrate this Earth Day think about protecting the earth and yourself.  You’ll be doing yourself and your family a great service.