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AN ALARMING EVENT

24 Oct

MetroBoston Publication Date October 24, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

I received an email from a reader of this column that stunned me.

Her house, like many others that have a radon remediation system, uses a fan to draw and vent radon that enters the house back to the outside.  What happens if the fan stops working? In the reader’s case, the fan was in the attic and was plugged into an ordinary outlet.

When her fan stopped working radon levels in the house went from below the federal 4.0 safety standard to above 20.0 for several years. The 4.0 federal safety level, as readers of this column now know, isn’t all that safe (please see www.GeorgeintheMetro.com).

At a 20.0 level, the government predicts that 35 nonsmokers and 180 smokers out of a thousand will get lung cancer from radon. If you are genetically susceptible, or haven’t always lived in the best environment, you may be as vulnerable as smokers to radon.

The reader developed Stage IV lung cancer. Can it be attributed solely to radon? Perhaps not; but the radon certainly didn’t help and may have accelerated the problem.

She asked me to pass this along: get your vent fan hard-wired into the electrical system. Don’t just plug it into an outlet where a malfunction might not be noticed. © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

RADON IN YOUR WATER

3 Oct

MetroBoston Publication Date October 3, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

 Last week I wrote about the dangers of radon in one’s home even at the so-called federal safety level. With 7 out of a thousand nonsmokers and 62 out of a thousand smokers predicted to get lung cancer at the federal safety level, it hardly seems like a safe level at all.

 Radon is not just limited to the air in one’s home. It’s in drinking water. While city or town water is treated and likely to disperse any radon within it, if you have well-water then you may have a serious problem.

 Radon in one’s water supply can cause stomach cancer when ingested if levels of radon are sufficiently high. Similarly, radon gas that is dispersed when one washes dishes or showers can cause lung cancer.

 Safety levels in water are measured differently than in air. That’s what confusing. Not all the states are consistent in what they view as a safe level or problem dose. Massachusetts believes that a level of 10,000 pCi/L is safe in water. New Hampshire believes that only 2,000 pCi/L is safe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thinks 300 pCi/L (yes, that’s right, 300) is the safe level.

 So if you have radon in your water supply, take action, and don’t necessary rely on what the government thinks is safe. © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

DOES RADON SCARE YOU

26 Sep

MetroBoston, Publication Date September 25, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

If you own a home, or hope to in the future, you need to know about radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that emanates from rock formations below your home. It comes into the house through the foundation. It causes cancer. 21,000 people will die from it this year.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Radon can be remediated in the house by installing a relatively inexpensive fan and exhaust system, but people tend to take no action if levels meet the federal safety standard.

The federal radon standard considered “safe” is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air, expressed as 4.0 pCi/L. The federal standard, to me, is a disgrace.

According to the EPA, it is anticipated that out of 1,000 people exposed to radon, the following will likely develop lung cancer:

8.0 pCi/L…..15 nonsmokers or 120 smokers

4.0 pCi/L…….7 nonsmokers or 62 smokers

2.0 pCi/L…….4 nonsmokers or 32 smokers

1.3 pCi/L…….2 nonsmokers or 20 smokers

The risk is approximately 9x greater for smokers at the federal “safe level” of 4.0.

Some consider 7 cancer victims out of a thousand an acceptable number, I don’t; declaring 62 out of a thousand an acceptable number of cancer victims because they are smokers is unconscionable.

More on Radon next week © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.