Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

New Standards Proposed for Radon in Drinking Water and Indoor Air

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

New Standards Proposed for Radon in Drinking Water and Indoor Air

Article excerpt

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has proposed new public health standards that allow states flexibility in deciding how to limit the public's exposure to radon in drinking water and indoor air.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive breakdown product of uranium that can dissolve and accumulate in groundwater. Thus, in some parts of the country where drinking water comes from groundwater sources rather than rivers, lakes, or streams, radon can be found in drinking water. The primary source of human exposure, however, is indoor air in houses; radon can enter indoor air from the soil under foundations. Most of the risk from radon in drinking water (nearly 90 percent) also comes from breathing radon released into the air from household water uses. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking.

U.S. EPA's proposal would provide states and water systems with two options for reducing risks from radon in both drinking water and indoor air. Under the first option, states could choose to develop enhanced programs addressing radon in indoor air in conjunction with individual water systems meeting a drinking-water standard of 4,000 picoCuries per liter of water (pCi/L, a standard unit of radiation). U.S. EPA is encouraging states to adopt this more cost-effective approach, which would address radon in indoor air while requiring individual water systems to reduce higher levels of radon in drinking water. If a state does not elect this option, individual water systems in that state would either reduce radon in drinking water to 300 pCi/L or develop individual indoor air programs for radon and reduce levels in drinking water to 4,000 pCi/L. …

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