Radon at Tahoe


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The Present

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- Most Recent First

September 13, 2023

A List of Cities and Counties with RRNC Laws

The EPA publishes statistics about which Cities and Counties have adopted Appendix F or AF of the IRC to require Radon Resistant New Construction in their building codes. Unfortunately the data is in a pull-down menu on one of their old web pages going back to 2017 (https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/radon/building-codes-radon-resistant-new-construction-rrnc_.html) which does not make for a complete report.

But not to worry, I took the time to plug the data, state by state, into an Excel Spreadsheet and now it is available as a 6 page report.

Click on image for larger view.

Click here to download the spreadsheet into Excel.

154 Cities and Counties and 30 States have RRNC regulations on the books. Now rremember this in data from 2017, so more municipalities may have joined the fray. I could not find a current list on the new EPA website but they may be updating this. But for now, this is all we have.

We are now in the process of making the City of South Lake Tahoe number 155 by helping the City Council adopt Appendix AF of the 2021 IRC into their building codes.

More to follow.

January 5, 2022

I Respond to First Baby of 2022 Story

The Tahoe Daily Tribune always runs a story on the first baby born in South Lake Tahoe for the New Year. In it they show the gift wagon of over $1,100 free gifts given to the happy parents. While I was on the Barton Health Patient and Family Advisory Council for 2 years we developed a Newborn Radon brochure and secured 400 free test kits from the California State Radon Program to hand out to all newborn parents at Barton. We took delivery of the first 100 test kits and were propared to hand them out when the program was suddenly stopped in 2019.

My comments appear below.

It's a little hard to read, so here is the text:

Congratulations to the happy new parents! So sorry the gift wagon did not contain the free radon test kit and brochure that we developed in the Barton Patient and Family Advisory Council. The State Radon Program donated 100 free test kits for the Tahoe Newborn Radon program to give away to all new parents at Barton Health. The obstetricians opposed it because they were worried that it might cause stress to the new parents if they had high radon and could not afford to fix it. So the free test kit program was dropped. I still have the free test kits and you can see the Newborn Radon brochure we designed at http://radonattahoe.com/Tahoe-Newborn-Radon-Program.htm .

Jeff Miner

Radon At Tahoe

We'll see what the public reaction is and if Barton requests that the Tribune take the comment down.

Link to the Tribune story.

Link to the Newborn Radon page

December 2, 2021

The EPA "Celebrates" 50 Years of Progress: Really? Where's the Beef?

The statement below appears on the Overview of EPA’s State Indoor Radon Grants Program: A Focus on Activities Conducted during 2020.

The last sentence is a sad commentary on how the EPA sees their progress in radon action. In the 30 years of SIRG grants 22,386 lives have been saved, compare that to the 21,000 lives that are lost to radon every year! That's 22,386 saved out of 630,000 lost; less than 4% saved. And 2 million families have tested and fixed their homes compared to 128 million households in the U.S.; less than 2% of homes mitigated. In 30 years with hundreds of millions of our tax dollars spent ($8M in 2021), you would think the EPA could aim higher. That kind of "progress" should lead to some self examination with radical changes in approach or execution.


December 2, 2021

California's New Interactive Radon Map

The California Radon Program has appearently been spending their EPA SIRG (State Indoor Radon Grant) money on the California Geologic Survey Radon Maps. And what a beauty they produced!

Give it a try.



Hopefully the EPA will spend some of their own money to update their 30 (or is it 40?) year old state radon maps to this format.

Want to see the difference? Here is the link to the old outdated EPA Radon Map for California that they still display on their web page. This old map is still used for official radon determination nation-wide and in the California Natural Hazard Disclosures in real estate transactions. Why? Because no one in the Federal or California legislatures cares enough to require that they change it. Sad.



November 7, 2019

Barton Patient and Family Advisory Council Challanged

I presented a Summary of the Tahoe Newborn Radon Program progress at the Barton PFAC meeting with Dr. Clint Purvance, Barton President and CEO. The summary essentially said that there are no real reasons for stalling the start of the program at Barton. I stated the objections by the 5 pediatricians and then answered them based on scientific consensus.

The pediatricians unanimously felt there were two main problems.

1) Radon abatement is cost prohibitive for most of our families so we would be introducing anxiety and concern over a problem that they cannot afford to fix
2) There still is not medical literature that supports recommending radon abatement. The US Preventative Task Force does not recommend screening, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend screening, and so we are not going to recommend screening. By giving out the brochure, it looks like we are recommending it.

If there are low cost ways to reduce radon in the home (government subsidies for low income families), then we may be willing to reconsider our position. Educate us to these so that we can educate our families.

The pediatricians have not responded to my emails which addressed their concerns and have not offered to meet with me in person to discuss this, but here are my responses:

1. The U.S. Surgeon General has listed Radon as a Class I cause of lung cancer and recommends that everyone test their house.
2. I'm surprised the pediatricians confused lung cancer screening with house testing. Lung cancer screening involves CT scans of a patient's lungs. No organization recommends this. Testing a house for radon involves a simple charcoal test kit. All government and health organizations that I know of recommend this.
3. Contrary to their argument, their own American Academy of Pediatrics recommends testing of all houses for radon. The presentation, Radon: Information for Clinicians, presented at American Academy of Pediatrics Environmental Health ECHO Conference May 2018 by Bryan Stierman, MD, MPH, Boston Children's Hospital recommends that primary care providers recommend that ALL patients test their house for radon.
4. Their argument that radon is too costly to fix so they would rather not know about it is almost laughable, if it was not so dangerous. It's like a diabetes patient not wanting to know their blood sugar count because they cannot afford the meds or wanted to avoid the hassle of taking insulin. And wouldn't doctors want to get the facts before they diagnose a problem and prescribe a remedy for it, even if some solutions are expensive? It should be up to the individual, not the doctor, to decide the risks and benefits and what they can afford.
5. Over 190 hospitals, each overseen by their own staff of pediatricians, have been using the program successfully, some for over 10 years. Our 5 pediatricians have a large pool of informed fellow pediatricians to consult with about their concerns.
So far the pediatricians have not returned my emails nor have I been invited to speak with them, so the program appears to be stalled. If Dr. Purvance can arrange a meeting with the pediatricians to address their concerns perhaps this program can still move forward and our babies can be protected.

Read complete text of the Summary here.

There may be unstated reasons why Barton has distanced itself from the radon programs I have offered. After the meeting I let the leaders of the PFAC know that if there is not movement on the program I will take my concerns to the public via a guest column in the Tahoe Mountain News. Let's see if logic or avoidance of negative publicity will spur Barton into moving forward with the Newborn Radon Program.

October 31, 2019

Lake Tahoe Cancer League - 2nd Radon Presentation

I made my second radon presentation to the Lake Tahoe Cancer League. The first was in 2015. I made my normal pitch to "test your own house," and then I recruited the members' help in working with me to get Barton Health to support the Newborn Radon Program where every new mother goes home with a free radon test kit, and the Physicians and Radon Program, where all doctors add the line "Have you tested your house for Radon?" on their patient intake form. Both of these programs would be easy to accomplish if Barton Health had the will to do them. We even got 400 free test kits donated by the California Radon Program in the CDPH to test our program.

Here is a copy of the presentation.

Here is a copy of the draft Newborn Radon Brochure in PDF format. This is only a DRAFT copy.


August 22, 2019

Barton Pediatricians Push-Back on Newborn Radon Program

Just as we were beginning to launch the Lake Tahoe Newborn Radon Program at Barton Health (the first Newborn Radon Program in California!), the pediatricians at Barton raised concerns that the knowledge of high radon in the home of new parents might cause stress if they were low-income family and unable to afford to fix their house.

My response was that if you had termites, wouldn't you want to know about it? If there is a problem with your house you would rather know about it so you could figure out how to fix it rather than learn about it when your house collapsed around you?

They also felt there was not sufficient medical data to support radon testing.

Here are my responses:


The best way to respond to the Pediatrician's objections is to break them down into their individual parts. Let's make a distinction between testing a house, remediating a house and screening a patient for lung cancer.

Testing for Radon.

The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that EVERY house be tested for radon.

U.S. EPA recommends that ALL schools be tested for radon.

The presentation, Radon: Information for Clinicians, presented at American Academy of Pediatrics Environmental Health ECHO Conference May 2018 by Bryan Stierman, MD, MPH, Boston Children's Hospital recommends that primary care providers recommend that ALL patients test their house for radon. You can download the presentation below. You can also find many references to similar articles by simply Googling "Pediatrics and Radon."

Download the entire Radon and Pediatrics presentation as a PDF from the American Academy of Pediatrics web page:

In fact so many sources recommend that ALL houses be tested for radon that I would have to ask the Pediatricians to show me some sources that recommend otherwise. This is especially important in a high radon area such as ours in the Sierra Nevada where over 40% of tested homes were above the EPA Action level.

Mitigating a house for radon.

The EPA recommends that ALL homes at or above 4 pC/l (picocures per liter) be mitigated. It further recommends that in any home between 2 pC/l and 4 pC/l the occupant "consider" fixing it because no level of ionizing radiation is safe. It is just a matter of how much risk you are willing to take.

Costs of mitigating a house vary, but I fixed mine for $1,200 doing the labor myself. Prices can range from under $1,000 to over $3,000 on a typical house, depending on the contractor and the style of house. How does that compare to the cost of lung cancer? But again, it is up to the individual's risk assessment and financial situation. This should not be presumed by anyone, including Pediatricians. Our goal should be, in my opinion, to give the new parents the facts about their house and let them determine how or if to deal with it. Wouldn't you want to know if you are living in an unhealthy environment? I lived in my house with high radon for 24 years without knowing it and believe me I wish I had known about it on day one. Renters by the way, have a pretty good legal precedent for requiring their landlord to fix their house if it is shown to be in an unhealthy condition. My website, RadonAtTahoe.com has a few resources for renters under the link The Solutions.

Screening patients for radon induced lung cancer.

I do not think anyone recommends this, nor do I. XRay screening is certainly not part of our Newborn Radon Program.

As to their specific objections:

The pediatricians unanimously felt there were two main problems.
1) Radon abatement is cost prohibitive for most of our families so we would be introducing anxiety and concern over a problem that they cannot afford to fix

Would you rather not know you have termites because you cannot afford to fix it? You would beg, borrow or steal to get the money to fix your house before it fell down around you.

2) There still is not medical literature that supports recommending radon abatement. The US
Preventative Task force do not recommend screening, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend screening, and so we are not going to recommend screening. By giving out the brochure, it looks like we are recommending it.

Every health organization that I know of does indeed recommend radon testing. They all follow the Surgeon General's finding that radon, just like cigarettes, is a known cause of lung cancer and that everyone should test their house for radon: American Lung Association, The CDPH Radon Program.

Even the AMA which I quote from their web site:


The importance of radon testing in rentals

The AMA adopted policy that calls for renters to have similar protections as home buyers in terms testing for radon. Radon, a radioactive gas and known carcinogen, is the second leading cause of lung cancer and causes more than 20,000 deaths a year.

Only two states mandate that new renters be informed of whether a radon test has been performed and the nature of its results. The new AMA policy calls for transparency and disclosure of prior radon tests and the most recent results of tests for renters entering into a lease.

And finally:
If there are low cost ways to reduce radon in the home (government subsidies for low income families), then we may be willing to reconsider our position. Educate us to these so that we can educate our families.

Colorado is one state that I know that has adopted legislation to help low income families pay for radon mitigation. (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/low-income-radon-mitigation-assistance)

There are also some national radon assistance programs. (https://sosradon.org/Mitigation-financial-assist).

But I would not wait for legislation to let a neighbor, or a customer in this case, know they are living in an unhealthy environment because I might be unsure of how they will remedy the situation. People are generally creative. They are usually not hand-ringers. In general, once people have the facts about their own health they will figure out a way to overcome the obstacles. In my opinion this is a better approach than trying to play God and withhold the facts because we fear they will worry and are incapable of figuring out a solution.

If I missed any of your points, please let me know.


Jeff Miner
Radon At Tahoe


To follow up on my last email, I wonder if the Tahoe Pediatricians have done their research on other states and hospitals that have gone forward with a Newborn Radon Program. Pennsylvania, from which I modeled the Tahoe Newborn Radon Program, has over 100 participating hospitals and distributes over 500 test kits a year. Surely there are pediatricians at those hospitals who would be willing to address our pediatricians concerns about test result causing stress due to financial problems.

Below is a screen shot of the EPA SIRG Grant report for 2017- 2018.

You can download the complete report here. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-04/documents/sirg_fy17_house_report_summary_final.pdf

Note the Outreach to the Medical Community and the Pennsylvania Newborn Radon Program at the bottom.

Utah has 16 participating hospitals. Alabama has over 7 participating hospitals.

There are likely other states with this program. Each state decides how to spend their SIRG grant funds for best effect in radon awareness and action so not every state has a Newborn Radon Program. I am trying to find an exact list but so far I do not have one. There should be no question, however, that all state radon programs and all national health organizations recommend radon testing for all houses. The list includes the EPA, the Surgeon General, the AMA and the AAP, our Tahoe Pediatrician's parent organization! If the pediatricians would like to go toe to toe with me over whether radon testing is recommended for new parents because they may not be able to afford the mitigation I would be happy to oblige them.


Jeff Miner
Radon At Tahoe


Eleanor Divver is the Radon Coordinator for Utah. She just responded to my inquiry and said that Utah has the Newborn Radon Program in 16 hospitals! They use the Green and Healthy Homes group and Habitat for Humanity to assist low-income families with mitigation systems. She also reaches out to certified mitigators for reduced price or pro-bono work. Also vendors and fan companies may be willing to donate fans and other equipment which can lower costs. Good ideas. Now all we have to do is hire someone to coordinate all of this. Oh well, just another road bump. I hope this helps with the pediatricians concerns.



January 16, 2019

National Radon Poster Contest

Nevada students won the Nevada Radon Postr Contest and also the National Radon Poster Contest in 2016 and 2018. California has yet to organize a California Radon Poster Contest.

2016 Nevada and National Radon Poster Contest winner by



January 8, 2019

Why Radon should be on Barton Health's Radar

I sent this email to Robby Randolph, manager of the Patient Centered Medical Home concept at Barton Health in hopes that Barton would move radon up the priority list of medical issues in the community. This is an on-going campaign but I think this letter lists the major points.

Hi Robby,

Thanks for the quick reply.

You stated "If we have a high incidence of lung cancer diagnosis in our community that can be dissociated to other factors, such as smoking, and has a greater impact on our population than high blood pressure, diabetes, mental health, cervical/colon/and breast cancer, then there would be a higher likelihood that it would move up on the priority list."

Many of us do have friends who have never smoked that have, or have died from lung cancer. And as Board member Dena Schwarte said at the recent PFAC meeting, we do not have hard data on lung cancer because these patients are shipped out to other hospitals and we do not keep data on cause of those deaths. Also it is impossible to detect how one got the lung cancer so we have to rely on national data.

You also stated: I feel the health system's most appropriate role would be to screen for lung cancer versus ensuring each patient's home be screened for Radon, which I see as a more public health endeavor. Since testing a home for radon has such a low cost ($0 to $15) and wholesale screening for lung cancer has a much larger cost and possible side effects from the radiation, an ounce of prevention may be both cheaper and better than a pound of cure.

I contend that radon-induced lung cancer should be considered a health problem in our area. Here's why:

1. Radon-induced lung cancer is in the top ten deadliest cancers in the US, (see chart below from attached EEH2010 Field report).

2. South Lake Tahoe clearly has the geology (decomposed granite) for a very high risk of radon potential (see radon map below prepared by the California Geological Survey in 2003).

3. 4 out of 10 homes in South Lake Tahoe actually tested for radon are over the EPA Action Level of 4 pCi/L (see graph below taken from radon test data collected by the California Radon Program in the CDPH).

4. But frankly everyone in our community should be concerned about radon because it's not just the very high radon homes that matter. Surprisingly the majority of radon induced lung cancers come from homes with below 4 pCi/L readings. This is because there are so many of them and the risk of lung cancer from radon varies with the amount of time of exposure and the amount of the radon, i.e. same risk for a short exposure to high levels as to a long exposure to low levels. Even the EPA says to "consider" fixing your home if it tests between 2 and 4 pCi/L. (taken from attached REH report).

So, since South Lake Tahoe has both a high potential for radon risk and measured actual test results that show nearly half of our homes have high radon, and since the U.S. Surgeon General has found that radon is a direct cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking, one might conclude that it would be sensible for our main health provider, Barton Health, to include radon-induced lung cancer as one of the important health threats in our community.

Thank you for considering these points,

Jeff Miner
Radon At Tahoe





January 8, 2019

Newborn Radon Program Gets Go Ahead at Barton!

The idea is that every new mother takes home a coupon for a free radon test kit when she leaves the hospital with her newborn baby.

Over 10 years ago I generated this demo brochure (2007 to be exact) with the goal of getting a Newborn Radon Program active in South Lake Tahoe, and then possibly in California. The final push took 2 years working outside of Barton and 2 years working within Barton Health's Patient and Family Advisory Committee. It's a slow process, but we are finally making some headway.

Natalia Deardorf of the California Radon Program volunteered to allow us to use a small portion of her grant testers for the first years pilot project. Natasha Schue of Barton Health is willing to work with me on the wording and the images for the brochure. Barton Health has voluteered to provide the design and printing needed. Therefore no grants have to be applied for, at least for the first year trial run.

More to come on this exciting project!

October 15, 2018

Can UCLA and USC Agree on Something?
The Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles Has Very High Radon

Update: 1/8/2019: I received no reply from either University.

I sent an email to both the UCLA Magazine and the USC Trojan Family Magazine to see if they would consider doing an article on the high radon concentrations in the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles. Time will tell if either university cares enough about the high radon risk in their own backyard to run an article in their magazine. Of all the California Radon Maps I have seen, this large area of very high radon risk in a highly populated area may be second only to the very high risk area in our own home town, South Lake Tahoe. See the Tahoe radon map.

Hello UCLA Magazine,

uated from UCLA in 1967 with a BS in Business. At that time I was living in Los Angeles and had no idea what radon was. In 1971 I moved to South Lake Tahoe, CA and in 2004 discovered radon in my house which prompted me to fix it, and in the processes I started a company, Radon At Tahoe, selling radon testers on Amazon and being a local promoter of all things radon, awareness and action. You can read all about it on my web page if you wish: RadonAtTahoe.com.

I am not writing to be the subject of an article, but I was wondering if radon, especially radon in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, so close to UCLA, might be a topic of interest to the UCLA Magazine readers, especially if you could find a current connection to someone at UCLA doing research in this area.

About radon, if you research it, you will find that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. According to the EPA, 21,000 people die from radon induced lung cancer each year in the USA. But it is easily detected with a tester (some are free or under $20, some, like the electronic one that I sell on Amazon, are over $150). And it is fixable on existing and new construction. More about that on my web page.

In doing a Google search on "radon and palo verde peninsula," I was surprised to find the CALIFORNIA STATE SCIENCE FAIR web site where the original science fair project (see link below) raised awareness of radon on the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the very first time in 2004.

Measurement of Indoor Radon Concentrations in the Palos Verdes ...
Objectives/Goals. The objective of this project is to quantify classroom radon concentrations in the schools of the Palos. Verdes Peninsula Unified School District ...

You can do your own Google search for more links showing radon meetings for residents in 2014 other items of interest.

Here is a much more recent radon map of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the accompanying report by the California Geological Society and the California Radon Program.

Click on image for a larger view.

And here is the link for the report:


Red on the map is an indication of Very High Risk of radon in the soil. One of the reasons I am even aware of this is that the only other large red area like that in the 10 or so radon maps that have been produced in California over the last 10 years is in my home town of South Lake Tahoe, CA. So I am aware of the dangers of that high an area of radon concentrations. You can view all of the current California radon maps on my web site with links to the originals at the California Geological Survey web site.

Palos Verdes Peninsula, being such a nice area to live, so close to the UCLA campus, it just might be home to some of your faculty or administration. If you decide not to pursue this as an article, this letter could at least serve the purpose of giving you a heads up to encourage UCLA residents in that area to test their homes for radon.


Jeff Miner, BS '67

October 13, 2018

Barton Health Urged to Pursue the Radon and Physicians Program

My letter to the members of the Barton Health Patient and Family Advisory Council:

I joined the PFAC in January of 2017 with the express intention of promoting the Physicians and Radon Program and the Newborn Radon Program at Barton Health. This was after more than a year of lobbying efforts to encourage Barton Health to address radon in a more active manner. Now we are approaching January 2019, nearly two years that I have been on the PFAC and I wish I could report that we have made much progress. The Newborn Radon Program to distribute a free test kit to all mothers of newborn babies as they leave the hospital has not received any funding or interest in redesigning the original brochure. The Physicians and Radon Program, which was to encourage all Barton physicians to discuss radon with their patients and to add the question, "Have you tested your home for radon?" to their intake forms, has not found any sponsors or participants.

I am questioning my reason for being on the PFAC. Yes, the PFAC needs members of the community to bring feedback on Barton Health policies and practices. But I was clear at the start; my personal agenda was and is to promote radon awareness and action at Barton Health. That part of the equation is still missing.

Precedent and resources are readily available for Barton Health to use in learning about and taking action on radon. Here is what I found from a quick Google search on Physicians and Radon:

Public health: Radon exposure: Can we make a difference? - NCBI - NIH
by R Copes - ?2007 - ?Cited by 13 - ?Related articles
Finally, physicians, particularly primary care physicians who practice in radon-prone areas, can encourage patients to have their homes checked for radon.

Radon and Lung Cancer - Editorials - American Family Physician
Sep 1, 2000 - A mitigation system vents radon from beneath the house to the outside of the home. Installation typically costs from $500 to $2,500. Radon is a known carcinogen and may pose a serious health threat. Physicians may be the only science professionals that patients contact.

Radon Awareness Through Physicians https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/radiological/radon/md_campaign.htm
Physicians can have a tremendous positive impact on the health of New Yorkers by encouraging radon testing and mitigation, to help reduce the likelihood of ..

Radon-A Physician's Guide - Iowa Department of Public Health
Because of the serious health risk posed by radon, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that all homes be tested for radon below the third floor. ... Radon does increase the risk of lung cancer, and physicians have an obligation to educate their patients about the health risk associated with radon."

Radon From A Physicians Perspective - CERTI.US
A panel of physicians pose hard hitting questions regarding the basis for concern, the true relative risk as well as how radon can be identified, remediated and ..

This last one deserves more than a cursory glance. It is panel discussion by Physicians and other members of the medical and health community about how doctors can incorporate radon into their wellness practices. Moderated by my radon mentor, Douglas Kladder from CERTI in Colorado.

If you would like another presentation to the PFAC on radon I would be glad to do it but I think you already have enough information. The next step is to implement a Physicians and Radon and a Newborn Radon Program at Barton Health. Please let me know if I can help you overcome the obstacles to doing this.


Jeff Miner
Radon At Taho

November 14, 2017

Tahoe Beach Club Responds to Radon

Michael McGinnis, Sales Executive for Tahoe Beach Club (thetahoebeachclub.com
530.545.3034) did an upfront job of responding to my questions about radon preparedness at the multi-million dollar project in Stateline. He contacted the Senior Project Manager at the Cumming management firm, Mike Allen, who explained their radon rationale. The email requested confidintiality, but the bottom line is that since the condo structures will have an airy parking garage below the living spaces, there is no need to incorporate RRNC (Radon Resistant New Construction) techniques to the building. My previous inquires fell on deaf ears but Michael McGinnis followed through with an answer. Thank you Michael!

October 26, 2017

Lung Cancer Death Risk at 4 pCi/l

Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health at American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, prepared a few charts to illistrate the relative increased risk of radon at 1.25 pCi/l and at 4 pCi/l. Smoking adds to the risk but for non-smokers the increase from 1.25 to 4 pCi/l brings about a 1% higher risk of lung cancer deaths. Others have compared living in a house with 4 pCi/l radon to smoking 8 cigarettes a day as far as risk of lung cancer death.

Click on image to download all three charts.

Click here to download excerpts of the discussion of estimating radon cancer risk vs. smoking.

October 21, 2017

4 out of 10 Homes in SLT Have High Radon !!
Udated South Lake Tahoe Radon Chart

Wake up Tahoe!! Nearly half the homes in South Lake Tahoe have high radon! And yet there is next to nothing being done about it. It makes my head spin. Anyway, for the record, here are the latest statistics from the California Radon Program Test Database for the 9 ZIP Codes in South Lake Tahoe. How did I get this data? Read below.

After years of neglect the California Radon Program finally updated their California Radon Test Database. The results are as of February 2016 and they recently released the data in PDF format. The tests are by ZIP Codes and in a PDF format, which is fine for looking up a particular ZIP Code, but since the columns cannont be totaled, it is not very useful for research on regions, such as South Lake Tahoe, which contains 9 ZIP Codes.

Frustrated by the lack of functionality of the PDF format I decided to attempt the conversion the the entire database to Excel format. It turned out to be no small task. but using PDF Complete as a start and spending the time to format out the extraneous headings, I was able to finally prevail.

What we now have is the complete California Radon Test ZIP Code Database in Excel format. Now anyone can download the database and cherrypick the zip codes they want to combine into a region, as I have done above for California, Sacramento, and South Lake Tahoe.

I hope more radon action advocates will make use of this free Excel tool to calculate the number of houses with high radon in their geographical region.

Download the above South Lake Tahoe Radon Chart here.

Download the original PDF Database from the California Radon Program web site here.

Download the entire California Radon Test database in Excel format from Radon At Tahoe here.

Here is a link to determine the zip codes in your particular city here.


October 12, 2017

Moonshine Ink Article on Radon
on the North Shore

Click on image to view article

August 18, 2016 Tahoe Beach Club and Radon

The prestegious Tahoe Beach Club was put on notice (by me) to use RRNC (Radon Resistant New Construction methods when building their new club house and condominiums.

Read Tahoe Daily Tribune article on ground breaking ceremony.

Read my letter to the architect Peter Grove of Collaberative Design Studio in Reno.

May 24, 2016

EPA Region 9 Radon Stakeholders Meeting

EPA Region 9 covers California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam, and Navaho Nations. This is only the second meeting like this ever in this region. It was put together by the EPA and sponsored by the Nevada Radon Program and was held in Reno, Nevada.

This was a great time to meet with other radon professionals and to hear presentations on radon programs in the region and to hear the stories of lung cancer survivors, real people, many of whom lived in houses with high radon for years but did not know it until too late.

View the Agenda.

May 01, 2016

FOIA Request Part II - - The Response

My EPA Freedom of Information Act request netted three things, all useful:

1. The Budget: 2014 Budget for the California Radon Program.

2. The Goals: 2015 SIRG (State Indoor Radon Grant) Workplan

3. The Accomplishments: 2014 Indoor Radon Program Activity Report

This is fantastic! We can finally see a little further inside the California Radon Program. From the Budget we can see how our taxpayer dollars are being spent. For instance we will be asking why a full time person is budgeted for but the Radon Program Manager is only assigned 1/3 time to the Radon Program. (The second section of the budget document, Section B, details, is the more useful section.)

From the Goals we can see what the California Radon Program is telling the EPA it intends to do with the grant money it gets. We have never been given this data before. It is quite impressive in scope. For instance it shows county and regional screening surveys that are either not on or hidden on the web site. We feel that these goals should be published on the website for all to see and evaluate.

From the Accomplishments we can finally see the statistics of what the California Radon Program has been able to do with those resources. It also is impressive given that the web page does not display any of this data. This could be published in a newsletter format, or just as is to show the public what the program is accomplishing for the money and resources spent. This is also important so the public can petition the CDPH to accomplish more or to put resources toward other objectives.

I think we are finally getting somewhere in holding the California Department of Public Health's feet to the fire, as it were. My goal is to get them to define where the program is intending to go, how much it is costing and what they are accomplishing with those resources. In the past this information has been shielded behind closed doors. Now, I hope, it will be made more visable to the public without the need for Freedom of Information Act requests. We have not yet had anyone in the CDPH respond to our request to discuss this. Keep tuned.

Here is my letter to Kelvin Yamada, Chief of the Environmental Management Branch of the CDPH, ranking official over the California Radon Program, asking him how he intends to display this data to the public and why the manager position is funded for full time but only staffed for 1/3 time. Of course I copied the EPA who manages the SIRG grants in hopes that they will also ask that question and audit the program more closely. I also requested that the Goals and Accomplishments be made available on the web site in the form of a newsletter so the public has access to these documents without going through the hassle of filing a FOIA request. Stay tuned for his response.

January 29, 2016

FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) Request to EPA

I filed a FOIA with Region 9 (Pacific Region) of the EPA asking them to disclose the budget detail for the California Radon Program. Since I got nowhere two years ago asking for this information from the California Department of Health, let's see what we can get from the EPA. Below is the text of the request:

I request the two past years and current year budget for the California Radon Program, under the DPH, showing:

1. What funds are derived from EPA SIRG Grants.
2. What are the matching funds or other funds from DPH.
3. How, specifically, the funds are used (personnel, outreach, radon maps, etc.)
4. By what criteria the effectiveness of the uses of funds are audited by DPH and by EPA.
5. By what criteria the Region 9 EPA decides on how to divide SIRG funds to Region 9 entities (California, Nevada, Tribes, etc.)

The purpose of this request is to understand the existing sources and uses of funds for the California Radon Program along with their effectiveness, in order to recommend changes to make the Program more effective in preventing radon induced lung cancers in California. I can't attach the very complete and helpful Nevada Radon Program budget, sent to me by Adrian Howe without a FOIA request because it is hard copy. But I can tell you it is very complete and shows where the money comes from, where it goes and how effective it is. In 2012 I requested this same budget info directly from the California Radon Program and the management in the DPH and received very little help but plenty of frustration. I have attached my series of letters and emails to the California Radon Program asking for a budget and showing the frustrating year-long process which ended unsuccessfully in 2013. I hope this current request is met with a more straight forward response.

2012/2013 correspondence with DPH.

January 19, 2016

I Addressed South Lake Tahoe City Council on NRAM

I displayed the 2 ft by 3 ft poster of radon potential in South Lake Tahoe. I asked city council to proclam January as Radon Action Month for South Lake Tahoe. It did not generate much interest though a few council members asked questions, but no followup.


January 13, 2016

Barton Health's Wellness Lecture Series: Environmental Cancer Causing Agents

Barton Health asked me to be on hand to answer question about radon, one of the many cancer causing agents in our environment, as addressed by Dr. Roderick Turner, Barton Pathology doctor. I handed out maps of Radon Potential in South Lake Tahoe and the text of my speach to the South Lake Tahoe Cancer League (below). I also handed out I had the radon map printed on a 2 ft by 3 ft poster and displayed that as well. Good question and answer session after the talk.


October 29, 2015

South Lake Tahoe Cancer League Talk

I was asked to be the speaker at the South Lake Tahoe Cancer League, speaking on radon and honoring one of their members who recently died from lung cancer. She was a non-smoker. About 40 people were in attendance. I handed out a copy of my presentation to those in attendance and one is available here.

December 10, 2014

First Ever West Coast Radon Stakeholder's Meeting

On February 24, 2015, in Sacramento there will be the First Annual Radon Stakeholder's Meeting for EPA Region IX, which is Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, 148 Tribal Nations. This is a big deal for the West Coast to finally hold a meeting on radon. The rest of the country has been holding these regional meetings for decades. Maybe there is hope for our section of the woods!

Read the announcement.

December 10, 2014

The Benefits of Having a California Radon Poster Contest

Let's face it, kids are creative. There is a National Radon Poster Contest but no mention of a State Radon Poster Contest on the DPH Radon Program web page. Curiously California had an entry in the National Contest but there is no way that I could find how to enter. It would be a good promotional program with the local schools if we could find out more about it. More about this as my research continues.

And the National First Place Winner for 2015 is Sunny, Age 14 of Louisville, KY. What a great poster!



December 10, 2014


6870 total visitors to Radon at Tahoe

1454 new visitors in 2013 and 2014


A New Look to Radon Promotion

After nearly two years of neglecting to update this page (blog) I finally had a few new things to share. This, and the two items above are the first items of radon progress I have seen for a while. I decided to lighten up a little on the radon message and image of my business cards and media ads. This is the result you may see in future promotions:

February 11, 2013

My Little War with the California DPH Radon Program

How can the $337,091 State Radon Program in California spend so much and accomplish so little? That is the question I have been trying to answer this past year. The radon database by zip code has not been updated since March, 2010, they do not publish a quarterly newsletter, or arrange for talks at local public libraries, or support additional staff around the state, or develop a radon poster contest in the schools, or go to green building conferences as past radon managers have done, or request that the Governor to proclaim January as National Radon Action Month, as he has done in previous years, or attend industry radon conferences.

We might want to compare the effectiveness of the California Radon Program to the Nevada Radon Program. They both have similar funding: California = $337,091, Nevada = $358,334, part Federal SIRG Grants and part matching funds. But Nevada has a robust radon education program for the same money spent with staff, public outreach, free test kits, library programs throughout the state, and an attractive quarterly newsletters with statistics on improvements to outreach, etc., etc. Have the people of California been getting their money's worth? We should be managing our radon program better, with an eye on outreach and public accountability.

I am sorry to say this, but I have to assume that the California Radon Program is not doing a good job either due to corruption or incompetence. Either management is assigning the radon program manager to other assignments, using federal and state radon funds, which would be illegal, or he is just not managing his time well. I mean it would be difficult to spend 40 hours a week at that desk and not get more done. This is painfully clear when you compare the California radon program to the one in Nevada with nearly equal funding but with huge improvements in results. (see the correspondence letter below for details).

Here are some options to affect change in that department:

1. Call for a budget audit from the Office of the Budget. This would have to be requested by my elected representatives: State Senator Ted Gaines, and State Representative Frank Bigalow.
2. Contact the State Grand Jury and request a Grand Jury Investigation of the Radon Program.
3. Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension and ask if they would be interested in taking on the radon program, similar to how it is organized in Nevada.
4. Do nothing.

I do not come to these conclusions lightly. Read the transcripts of our communications over the past year to get an idea of the extent of the problem and how frustrating it can be to deal with a bureaucracy.


January 10, 2013


5416 total visitors to Radon at Tahoe

643 new visitors in 2012


Proclamation from Governor Brown on National Radon Action Month

I requested that California Governor Jerry Brown Proclaim that January is California Radon Action Month in line with the U.S. EPA National Radon Action Month. (Note: I did this because the California Radon Program under the Dept. of Public Health decided to break with tradition and not to request a proclamation this year.)

The request says in part:

" ... A little background information on radon in California:

1. In the past, radon has not been considered as much of a problem in California. Only 1% of our homes were estimated to have elevated radon levels, but still with the largest number of homes of any state, that's still a lot of homes with high radon. With the new radon maps published in the past few years by the California Geological Survey, we are gaining a better understanding of the actual radon distribution in California.

2. According to those CGS radon maps and studies, which to this point have covered only 10 counties or 13.9% of the state land mass, 1.5 million Californians live in high to moderate radon potential areas in those 10 counties.

3. According to Dr. Phil Jalbert of the U.S. EPA, California has the highest death rate of any state from radon induced lung cancer: 1,724 deaths per year out of a total of 21,000 radon induced lung cancer deaths in the United States.

4. I am afraid I cannot say that the response to California's radon problem by the California Department of Public Health Radon Program has been up to the task. However I plan to encourage the CDP to take closer look at the problem and the solutions in the coming months."

Read my full request.

See a similar radon proclamation in Colorado.

My request was declined because it had to be requested by the California Radon Program first and that program has declined to request a proclamation this year. Shame on them!


November 13, 2012

Radon in the News From Iowa

WHO TV in Des Moines, Iowa broke this news story on radon in Iowa schools. More news agencies are running in-depth TV news segments on radon lately.

Silent Killer: Radon in Iowa Schools
(7 minutes) click on image to view news story


November 11, 2012

Radon in the News From Utah

KSL TV in Utah ran a series of in-depth news reports on radon. They are well done, quick, yet touch on all the major impact points: Family loss, owners had no knowledge of radon, home builder denial of radon and then denial of responsibility, lack of state or local building regulations, one legislator who wants to do something about it, and a news program that knows how to do investigative reporting.

What's the similarity between Utah and California? Mountains, granite soils, lack of regulations, lack of good reporting!


3 family members diagnosed with lung cancer; radon suspected
(3 minutes)



Unhealthy levels of radon gas detected in Draper; residents have no recourse
(6 minutes)

Click on image to watch short news report

November 1, 2012

LEED USER Comments on Radon Maps

The US Green Building Council's LEED Certification program for green buildings has a User Forum for making comments to LEED Version 4 revision document. I left the following comments on radon maps and will update this if I get any response:

The USGBC should use current, local and accurate radon maps in determining areas of high radon risk. Just because the EPA published a national radon map by county 20 years ago, does not mean it is the final authority on radon risk potential today. Many states and localities have produced more accurate and more recent radon risk maps and they should be used by the USGBC when and where available.

The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologist (AARST) a leading radon industry professional group, states in it's recent revision of the Radon Resistant New Construction RRNC 2.0 consensus document:



1201.1 EPA established zones.

The radon potential of a building site shall be estimated from the United States environmental Protection Agency radon potential map as shown in Figure 1201.1 or from United States Environmental Protection Agency radon potential by county listing as shown in Table 1201.2. Where state or local jurisdictions have published radon potential data, such data shall supersede the information in Figure 1201.1 and Table 1201.2."

I can't speak for all states, but I know that in California, one has only to look at the California Geologic Survey's radon web site (http://www.conservation.ca.gov/cgs/minerals/hazardous_minerals/radon/Pages/Index.aspx) to find 18 localized radon maps either completed or under development. These readily available radon maps and surveys should be used (where and when available) by the USGBC in establishing high radon risk areas and the 20 year old EPA national radon map should only be used where these more recent maps do not exist.

October 24, 2012

18 California Geological Radon Maps

At the 2012 International Radon Symposium in Las Vegas this month, Dr. Ron Churchill of the California Geological Survey made a presentation on 18 counties or portions of counties with completed or near-completed geological radon maps. This is important data because many consider California to be a low-radon state and these radon maps dispell that notion in a visual way. It is also important data because many agencies have been relying on the older, less accurate EPA National Radon Map to determine radon risk in California and now they will be hard-pressed (or at least that's the hope!) to ignore these more recent and more accurate radon maps. Note how many mapping areas are in or near the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

View images of all radon maps on our California Radon Maps Page

View Radon Map Power Point presentation

Link to California Geological Survey web site to view or download the following maps:

Special Report 216 - Radon Potential in Santa Cruz County, California
Download Report (2.2 MB PDF) Download Santa Cruz County Map (3.8 MB PDF)

Special Report 211 - Radon Potential in the Lake Tahoe Area, California
Download Report (2.3 MB PDF) Download Lake Tahoe Map (1.6 MB PDF)

Special Report 208 - Radon Potential in San Luis Obispo County, California
Download Report (1.9 MB PDF) Download Eastern San Luis Obispo Map (5.3 MB PDF) Download Western San Luis Obispo Map (5.8 MB PDF)

Special Report 201 - Radon Potential in Monterey County, California
Download Report (1.8 MB PDF) Download Eastern Monterey Map (1.5 MB PDF) Download Western Monterey Map (2.7 MB PDF)

Special Report 194 - Radon Potential in Ventura County, California.
Download Report (1.8 MB PDF) Download Map (3.0 MB PDF)

California Radon Measurements by Zip Code PDF (CDPH Radon Program), 104 KB

Special Report 182 - Radon Potential in Southern Los Angeles County
Download Report (19 MB PDF) Download Map (5.6 MB PDF)

Radon Zone Map for Santa Barbara County
PDF, 851 KB

Radon Mapping in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties,
article from Nov/Dec 1997 California Geology magazine
PDF, 7.6 MB

Geologic Controls on the Distribution of Radon in California, 1991
PDF, 3.9 MB


October 22, 2012

California Tops All States in Radon-Related Deaths

Dispite the fact that California bills itself as a relatively "low radon" state (only 1% of homes in California have elevated radon, versus 1 in 15 nationwide, according to a California Radon Program handout), the EPA estimates that because of our massive 37 million population, we have the most radon-induced lung cancer deaths of any state in the country. Phil Jalbert, Radon Team Leader of the EPA Indoor Environment Division, estimated radon induced lung cancer deaths by state and presented it at the 2007 Jacksonville Radon Symposium. Radon at Tahoe recently obtained a portion of the slide presentation and calculations. The implications are that California could also be a leader in saving lives by getting serious about radon education and action.

Estimate of State Radon-related Lung Cancer Deaths, September 2007;
Jalbert, P., Carter, S., Pawel, D.

View charts and calculations (a sub-set of the longer 2007 presentation)

October 18, 2012

Appeal to Green Builders to Build Radon Out

Ron Jones publishes the Green Builder website and blog. Ron is recognized as one of the fathers of the green building movement. He has been instrumental in establishing guidelines and programs through NAHB, USGBC and a variety of regional initiatives. I responded to his blog asking why more green builders don't test for radon, and specifically why the leading green builder associations, such as the U.S. Green Building Council, which manages the LEED program, do not use updated radon maps when requiring LEED applicants to build radon out.



Read my Blog comment.

I will update this if I get any response to my comment.

October 4, 2012

2013 Nevada Radon Poster Contest

Nevada children are invited to showcase their artistic talents to promote radon awareness by entering the 2013 Nevada Radon Poster Contest by Oct. 30.

The contest is open to children ages 9-14 who are enrolled in a public, private, territorial, tribal, Department of Defense, or home school. Children can also enter through a sponsoring club, such as an art, computer, reading, science, scouting organization, or 4-H club.

Entries are free, but are limited to one entry per child.

Posters should follow these five topics: 1) What is radon? 2) Where does radon come from? 3) How does radon get into our homes? 4) Radon can cause lung cancer, and 4) Test your home for radon.

Cash prizes for the top five Nevada entries are: $80 for first place, $60 for second, $40 for third and $20 for fourth and fifth place winners. The top three Nevada poster entries are also awarded cash prizes for their teachers, or sponsoring organization’s representative, and are entered in the national contest. National contest winners receive $1,000 for first place, $600 for second, $400 for third, and $400 for special online voting recognition.

National winners will receive recognition and the posters will be reproduced and distributed nationally to promote radon awareness. (from Lake Tahoe News)

2012 1st Place National Winner
You May Be Living
With a Killer
Laura of New York, NY

Click on image for contest information and application forms

Don't we need to be doing this in California?

September 24, 2012

Nevada's Radon Fairy

At a Nevada Day event last year, Radon activist Denise Uber (pictured) dressed up as the “Radon Fairy” to educate people about the harmful effects of radon. Uber is a strong advocate for radon awareness. She previously had her home mitigated, appeared in local newspapers and is a continued supporter of the Nevada Radon Education Program. Hopefully the Radon Fairy will show up for this year's Nevada Day, October 31.

Read full story.

July 28, 2012

PineWild Home Owners Assn. Radon Presentation

PineWild Condominiums are a beautiful complex of 135 beach-front condos in Zephyr Cove, Nevada. The Home Owners Association asked me to give a presentation on radon at their annual home owners meeting and picnic. The PowerPoint presentation is available for viewing and reviewing below, as are the resource pages.

PineWild PowerPoint presentation 7-28-12

PineWild Resource Page

Resource Page #2 Answers to Common Questions

May 29, 2012

Radon Poster Contest

This one is from Deleware. We need a radon poster contest in California and even South Lake Tahoe!

May 27, 2012

Physicians and Radon

The Iowa Cancer Consortium has published a video on YouTube aimed at physicians and radon. There is a need for health professionals, especially front-line family practicioners, to better understand radon for themselves so they will test their own homes and be a positive role model for their patients.

As Dr. Vermillion says in the video, he was not really trained on radon in medical school and it wasn't until a non-smoking patient presented lung cancer symptoms to him that he decided to look into it closer. In the process of testing her for lung cancer, he decided to test his own home for radon. He found elevated radon levels and had his house fixed and now has added a radon question to his medical history survey.

I have sent a link to this video to my primary care physiciam, Dr. Patrick Martin in South Lake Tahoe, and to Mr. John Williams, the Director and CEO of Barton Health, my local hospital. I suggest that everyone reading this blog send a link to the video to their primary care physician and to the head of the hospital in their home town. I also plan on sending this to the head of the medical schools in my area, which are U.C.Davis Medical School in Sacramento and U.C.S.F. Medical School in San Francisco. This is a great way for citizens to take action on a personal basis to affect change in their communities.

Watch the video.

View Tahoe Physicians and Radon Page

View Tahoe Newborn Radon Program Page


April 7, 2012

Radon: The Killer of Real Estate Deals

"When radon is found during the inspection process in a real estate deal, nobody wants to pay for it." So warns Adam Conrad, broker/owner of Perry Wellington Realty.

"The seller doesn’t want to pay because they agreed to their ‘bottom dollar’ when they accepted the offer from the buyer. The buyer doesn’t want to pay because they offered their ‘top dollar’ for a home they thought was in good condition.

"And now the stalemate. Nobody wants to move. I see it from both sides.... Heard from many sellers in a real estate transaction- “I am not paying for a radon system, the buyer can pound sand”. I get it. This is frustrating. (But real estate agents) have to get the deal done.

"So if you are a seller, it is a good idea to approach this situation with eyes wide open. You may have radon that you didn’t know you had. You could test for it now, or just budget for a system which could cost $900-$1800 typically. It might be better to test and fix before you list your house for sale. If radon is present, it is affecting your health now, whether you sell or not.

"Once you determine there is radon during the inspection process of a sale, you are now required to disclose this information to other potential buyers. This is the reason that sellers typically ‘fix’ the radon once it is discovered. Remember that ‘Sellers Property Disclosure’ you filled out when you listed your house for sale? You will need to update that document with the results and what you did (or not) to fix it."

Read full article on Adam's real estate page, Perry Wellington Realty.
Read how to develop a radon strategy for real estate agents on our Real Estate Page.

March 28, 2012

“I am really sorry to tell you this, but you have less than a 50 percent chance of living for one year and about a 15 percent chance of living for five years.”

"This gloomy prognosis is delivered each year to thousands of Americans who have been given a diagnosis of lung cancer caused by exposure to the radioactive gas radon. Since the late 1980s, a half million Americans have died from radon-induced lung cancer, including a significant number who never smoked a day in their lives."

So starts an article on radon by Dr. Bill Fields in the Opinion section of the New York Times. The article uncovers the sadly limited role the EPA has played in protecting us from radon but warns against cutting the radon grant program out of the 2013 EPA budget.

Read full article.

February 16, 2012

Excellent News Report on Radon

Fox News in Minnesota aired an excellent in depth 10 minute radon news report on their Investigator Series. More news stations should do the same in their local areas. This particular news report does a great job of taking us into the lives of a family that lost a mother who never smoked to radon-induced lung cancer. "Who knew about radon?" the daughter says that also lived in the same house with extremely high levels. It goes into why people do not test their homes, what radon is, how to test and how to fix a home. If you have a few minutes, this is a good one to watch.

Watch the video.

February 2, 2012

Radiation In Well Water

Here is a link to a most interesting and sad story from a radon professional on the radon list serve who observed, over a 5 year period, a family who moved into a multi-million dollar house, who followed the rules, observed state water standards, relied on the knowledge and integrity of their builder, but still were exposed to high radon levels and radiation in their water because neither their well water nor their radon was tested when they moved into their "dream-house." This one should wake up any real estate agent or buyer who thinks radon testing is a waste of time and could hurt the sale. Don't miss this one!

February 2, 2012

Radiation and Pregnancy: A Fact Sheet from the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has prepared a fact sheet to help pregnant women understand the possible health effects to their fetus from exposure to radiation. Here is the link to the CDC website.

Here is a link to a discussion of the fact sheet by a group of scientists on the Radon Listserv. This discussion brings out, among other things, the lack of training most doctors have regarding radiation and radon.


January 31, 2012

California Leads Nation in Radon Lung Cancer Deaths

(Click on chart for larger view).

Because of our large population, and even though we have a lower percent of homes with elevated radon than many states, California is estimated to be the number one state in total number of radon related lung cancer deaths, according to this 2007 study. View powerpoint presentation.

January 30, 2012

4773 total visitors to Radon at Tahoe

967 new visitors in 2011


For Accuracy, Test for Radon in "Lived-In" Conditions

(Click on chart for larger view).

What would make radon levels in this house change from below 4 pCi/L to over 70 pCi/L in one day? The furnace kicked on. The forced air furnace in this Colorado home was drawing its combustion air from the crawl space, which happened to have high radon levels, though the house happened to be fine. The furnace distributed the heated and radon ladened air throughout the house via the heating system. When the furnace was off, the house tested very low for radon.

This is the problem with testing un-lived in houses for radon, as is often done during real estate transactions. Unsuspecting real estate agents may get a low test and say the house has no radon because they do not know to simulate "lived-in" conditions. A professional radon tester should know to test taking the heater or air conditioner into account to simulate "lived-in" conditions.

This also points out the benefit of a professional continous radon monitor with a print-out to see changes by the hour. It is best to hire a radon professional with the right equipment for real estate testing. However, if the real estate agent or the professional radon tester did not know to turn on the heater, any test would have shown low radon in this high radon house.


January 15, 2012

November 26, 2011

Are Short-Term Radon Tests Enough?

Radon levels vary so widely in the same house that short-term radon tests often are misleading, especially in real estate transactions. It's the average reading over the long term that increase health risks. Continuous radon monitors are more accurate simply because they average readings over a longer time period than a two day short-term test. Real estate transaction should close escrow with funds set aside for mitigation if a long-term test (90 days or more) is high (see the Real Estate Page for details).

November 9, 2011

McCall Realty Has Radon Talk at Staff Meeting

Thane McCall and Jon Kolb of McCall Realty South Lake Tahoe invited me to speak to about 20 of their real estate agents at a staff meeting today. There was more interest and questions than at my other real estate talks, possibly because I did not use the Power Point presentation that is guaranteed to put people to sleep, but instead just talked about getting a "radon strategy" and the Radon Real Estate page on this web site.

It's a great step forward for a real estate agency to educate agents on radon. Time will tell if the agents will "test every house they sell for radon" as Thane McCall requested that they do. Congrats to McCall Realty!

I think McCall's concern about educating his agents and his call for tests on all sales contrasts sharply with Deb Howard's dismissive approach to radon as quoted in the July 20th radon article in the Tahoe Tribune (see below):

"Despite the health risks, radon levels are not a pressing concern for most homebuyers.
In her 30 years as a real estate industry veteran, Deb Howard, a licensed real estate broker in California and Nevada, said only one client was concerned about radon. That was about 15 years ago, when radon was a hot topic in the news. “It's not really high on the list of concerns in the marketplace,” said Howard, owner of Deb Howard and Co., “but that's not to diminish its importance as something to be concerned about.” In that case, the prospective buyers had the home's crawlspace tested, with the result very near or at the danger zone of 4 picocuries per liter. The fix was simple: Open the vents in the sub area, then retest. The second test showed the radon level had lowered.
“Radon is quite manageable and can be mitigated easily,” Howard said." (As though all it takes is opening a few sub area vents to get rid of all radon problem - if it were that easy everyone would just open vents! Deb Howard could learn a few things from Thane McCall).

August 25, 2011

Useless Dialog with El Dorado County Officials on the Radon Article

I sent Gerri Silva, Director of Environmental Management, an email requesting status of their radon program and if any changes were planned after the article and guest column were published (see below). She responded with a statement about being hampered by the Board of Supervisors and doing all they are able to do.

Read Gerri Silva's email.

I responded with an email stating (among other things!) that there is plenty of progress still to be made and she can take the necessary step to move forward if she sees radon as a problem. So far, it seems like a stalemate getting any meaningful radon action out of El Dorado County Environmental Management.

Read my email to Gerri Silva.

August 13, 2011

My Guest Editorial Runs in the Tahoe Daily Tribune

Good to their word, the editors of the Tahoe Daily Tribune printed my guest editorial allowing me to comment on and point out some of the shortcomings of the July radon articles (see below). I wish they had been more timely than three weeks after the original articles, but beggars can't be choosers. I am hoping the articles and the guest editorial will bring some comments from the public in letters to the editor, or something, that could add to the discussion. My secret fear is that both the articles and the editorial will go unnoticed and will be soon forgotten. Pardon my pessimism, but even in the face of facts and reports, getting local government to act on radon is almost as difficult as getting individual home owners to test their houses for radon, articles and editorials not withstanding.

Read my Guest Editorial.

July 20, 2011

RADON Makes The Front Page Headlines at Tahoe

"Radon exposure risk could be greater than expected." That by-line starts Part I of a two part series on radon in the Sierra Nevada in the Tahoe Daily Tribune today. Roseann Keegan did a very good job of reporting on the issues, the reports, the studies and the conclusions of radon in this area. Of course, we have been reporting on these same reports right here on this page and on the Radon At Tahoe web site for years. But it's good to see the message from a news paper which should reach a wider audience. The article was well researched and factual with only two errors, that I could find (price of mitigation: she used national averages, not the higher Tahoe specific rates; and a comment that just opening crawl space vents can help, it won't. I plan to write a letter to the editor to give the local persective. (And of course I also plan to take out an ad in the paper near part II when it prints on Friday!)

Read Part I of the two part series
Read Part II of the two part series
Read my guest editorial response to the article

June 13, 2011

RRNC Training in Washington D.C. "Free"

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) is sponsoring a 2½ day training opportunity in Washington, DC. The training is designed to enhance your efforts to implement radon-resistant new construction (RRNC). You will work with U.S. EPA staff, NEHA field partners who have successfully implemented RRNC in their communities, local code officials and builders, other national affiliate partners, and nationally-recognized instructors. You will see specific examples of how to develop an effective, results oriented program. And, you will develop your own comprehensive strategy to guide you in your efforts in promoting RRNC as part of your radon risk reduction strategy. The training will include an extensive overview of RRNC techniques and presentations on radon health effects, including recent research. Must apply by September 16, 2011.

Read PDF on how to apply.

May 19, 2011

Radon Contest Winners Announced

Two area residents will receive a $1,500 credit towards the installation of radon mitigation systems in their homes after winning a contest sponsored by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension 's Radon Education Program.

Read the press release.

March 29, 2011


Here is an rather formal study that asks the interesting question: Is it worth it? Is it cost-effective to fix new or existing houses to prevent radon-induced lung cancer, as compared to the cost of treating those cancers? The study looks at the radon-prone Upper Midwest region as exemplified by Minnesota and Iowa and sites other similar studies, such as one in Great Britain,which, surprisingly, found it was not cost-effective in that region.

Link to the study

March 29, 2011

A Living Radon Reference Manual (2009)

Now in a PDF format, here is a good basic compendium for all things RADON. Some of it is still a work in progress but you can download the latest version or view it online. Got questions about radon? Here are the answers. Below is a partial list of the Table of Contents:

Here's an example from the manual on the complicated radon decay process made somewhat understandable.

The U-238 series is the one that produces radon 222 and if you’ll note from that series,
radon is the only element which is gaseous at STP. This is the crux of the problem for as
the uranium-238 decays into its decay products, all the solids remain within the earth (or
seawater), and the radon, being gaseous, has the mobility to percolate up through the
earth and into the atmosphere, or into a house which may be above the percolating radon.

Link to the manual

March 29, 2011

President's Cancer Panel, 2009.
Environmental Factors in Cancer: Radon

Here is a Power Point presentation by R. William Field, Ph.D., M.S. Professor, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa. This is a great presentation of what we know about radon and how effective we have been at protecting the public. Here is a sample from the presentation: Homes in the US with Radon Resistant Features (RRF). Pretty pathetic!

This an example of our effectiveness (or lack thereof)
at getting the word out about radon.
The presentation is a well-rounded review of the problem and the fixes.
Personally, I will likely use this at my next speaking opportunity.

View or Download the presentation.

March 25, 2011


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Digitized EPA Radon Map shows Sierra as "moderate radon"

This digitized version of the EPA Radon Map by counties shows the obvious exclusion of the Sierra Nevada Mountain region from the Zone 1 (High Radon Potential) rating. Since California acknowledges that "the Sierra Nevada is the highest radon region in the state" and local radon surveys show 40% of homes in the Sierra Nevada region have elevated radon, the National EPA Radon Map should also show this. At least Nevada shows the counties that border the Sierra Nevada to be Zone 1. This glaring omission of California high radon areas is what allows real estate transactions at Tahoe to skate with "moderate radon potential" ratings and LEED green building certifications in Truckee to ignore building radon out (Radon Resistant New Construction - RRNC) when building LEED Certified buildings in known high-radon areas in mountain counties. Both buyers and builders think they are getting health buildings because the law does not require true radon disclosure based on the (flawed) National EPA Radon Map. (Grrr!)

Click map to view entire USA Radon Map.

February 13, 2011


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Tahoe Mountain News Runs Story on Radon At Tahoe

It pays to advertise! After two months of running "Got Radon?" ads in the Tahoe Mountain News, our first really "paid" advertising in 7 years, Taylor Flynn had Jeff Munson do a story on our company and radon. Jeff interviewed me but took most of the data from the web site and from independent research. It was a well-written and factual article. The only correction I could find was that he attributed the radon book to me. Actually Doug Kladder, my radon certification instructor, wrote Protecting Your Home From Radon, I only sell it.

Regrettably, it does not quite pay to advertise. Of all the sales I have been getting on Amazon for the book and the tester, in January only two were from Tahoe. It will be interesting to see if another month of the "Got Radon" ad and this story in the Mountain News generate more "local" business. After all, I started this business to reach folks at Tahoe. Now I sell to radon customers in over 40 states on the internet, but I still have trouble reaching people in my home town.

Read the article on page 28, February, 2011 issue.

January 28, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

A 6th grader did a Fair project on radon, got an A+, and may influence her city officials to adopt a radon ordinance. She compared her city (Windsor, Colorado) to nearby Fort Collins, which already has a radon ordinance. She found similar radon levels and characteristics in both communities. By coincidence, South Lake Tahoe, California, has about the same radon levels and characteristics as those two towns, but no radon ordinance. It would be great if our own Meyers Environmental Magnet School would be inspired by this 6th grade Science Fair project and do a similar radon project for South Lake Tahoe. Hopefully our city and county officials would pay attention to the similar levels of radon in these three communities and adopt a similar radon ordinance (as we have been requesting for the past 5 years).

Download the science fair report

January 13, 2011

Show Me The Science, Part Deux: Radon Dose Equivalents

For those interested in the radiation dosages in milirems associated with time spent in a radon-rich environment, this chart is for you. This chart compares students, housewives, and retired folks living normal lives in houses with high radon to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations for nuclear power plant workers. We may be getting more overall radiation then we think.

Display Radon Dose Equivalents Chart

There is controversy in the radiation science community on equating radon levels to radiation exposure. Read some of the repartee from the radon professional blog.

Radiation measurement conversion chart, for those who need to know the difference between a WL (working level) and a Bq (becquerel). Hint: 1 Bq = 27 pCi.

The interesting (but sad) point hidden in these radiation charts is that they are kept on dusty shelves in remote labs and never really given an airing in the public media. It's killing us, but we hear next to nothing about it.

January 8, 2011

Show Me The Science: New Radon Study

For those of you who care about the science behind what some consider merely a "radon scare," this study taps a much wider population than previous studies.

Conclusions: This large prospective study showed a positive association between an ecological indicator of residential radon and lung cancer.
Impact: These results further support efforts to reduce radon concentrations in homes to the lowest possible level.

Read Turner Study

January 8, 2011

Douglas County Geotourism and Radon

Tahoe Daily Tribune ran an article on Geotourism in Douglas County and the Sierra Nevada. Geotourism promotes areas that, among other things, care about the "well-being of its residents" and about "directing tourism in a healthy and sustainable way," according to the article. This prompted me to communicate once again with Nicole DeJonghe, of the Sierra Business Council.

Articulating the role of promoting this area for geotourism while protecting residents and visitors from radon is an on-going process. Enlisting supporters without antagonizing them is the goal, and combating apathy. Let's hope these efforts are successful.

I enjoyed reading the article on geotourism in the Tahoe Daily Tribune this morning.  I hope there is a place for radon in the discussion of "healthy and sustainable" geotourism in the Sierra Nevada. According to the article, one of the criteria for a destination to be on the Sierra Nevada Geotourism map is that it "promotes the distinctive geographical character of the region and its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents ." According to you in the article, "The Sierra Nevada has a ton of resources. It's just a matter of deriving and directing that tourism in a healthy and sustainable way. "   I want to encourage the Sierra Business Council, the Sierra Nevada Geotourism Project and the National Geographic Society to remember the " well being and healthy " aspect of their charter. 

Radon is a naturally occurring aspect of the Sierra Nevada geo-environment.  We have more of it here in the Sierra Nevada than most places in the country because of our granite.  Radon is a by-product of the natural radioactive breakdown of Uranium, which is contained in granite.  It is the second highest cause of lung cancer behind smoking, according to the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. EPA.  Radon gets trapped in houses, especially in cold climates such as ours, and builds up to high enough levels to pose a health threat.  It can be fixed by ventilating beneath a sealed tarp in the crawl space, which is usually a non-complicated and modest priced fix.  It can also be built out at almost no cost when houses are built, if the local building department requires it, which they currently do not.  But the point is, it is fixable and it does not have to be a deterrent to geotourism.  On the other hand, it should not be ignored, either, which it largely has been by most agencies who could do something about it.   The Sierra Business Council could play an important role by first understanding radon, and second in getting local government and health agencies to address radon.  I hope you choose to be part of the solution.

Below is the latest chart of the incidence of radon in selected communities on the California side of the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe.  Nevada does not keep a database of radon test results by zip code, but you can expect similar results on the Nevada side.  For example, Zephyr Cove had the highest radon score for any city in Nevada of 69% of homes having elevated radon levels in the 1991 statewide radon survey.   I hope you will choose to work together with me and the proper health authorities to make this area a favored geotourism destination as well as a healthy and safe place to live and visit.

Jeff Miner
Radon At Tahoe

Read article in Tribune

Check out the Sierra Nevada Geotourism web site.

January 8, 2011

got radon? Ad To run in Tahoe Mountain News In January


January 7, 2011

Update to Radon Chart

2011 update to the Sierra Nevada Radon Chart shows slight changes with 806 additional test figures since last year.

There was not much change in the percent of homes with elevated readings in the 25 selected communities I have been charting for the last few years. With 806 additional tests reported to the California Radon Program Data Base, readings in those 25 zip codes around Lake Tahoe, went from 35% to 31%. In South Lake Tahoe, with 82 additional readings, the percent of elevated radon homes went from 39% to 40%. Still one of the higher areas in the Nation.

View latest Sierra Compare spreadsheet.

January 5, 2011


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GeoTourism, EcoTourism and the Case for Radon

Is there a place for radon in the discussion of "healthy and sustainable" Eco and Geo Tourism in the Sierra Nevada? The criteria for a destination on the Sierra Nevada Geotourism map is that they "promote the distinctive geographical character of the region and its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents." According Nicole Dejonghe, Program Director for the Sierra Business Council, "The Sierra Nevada has a ton of resources. It's just a matter of deriving and directing that tourism in a healthy and sustainable way." I hope to encourage the Sierra Business Council and National Geographic to emphasis, or at least acknowledge the well being and healthy aspect of their charter. I sent this letter to Nicole DeJonghe who also directs the Sierra Nevada Geotourism Project, an arm of the National Geographic Society:

As a member of the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Assn.,I am in total support of the Sierra Nevada Geotourism Project.  But as the owner of a radon business in South Lake Tahoe, I feel a safety issue in the Sierra Nevada is being down-played or simply ignored, both by tourism promoters, such as yourself, and by government health officials, such as El Dorado County Environmental Health Department.  The 2007 Radon Survey of the Lake Tahoe Area conducted by the California Department of Public Health Radon Program, and the subsequent radon map produced by the California Geological Survey, shows that between 39% to 53% of the houses in South Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas have elevated radon levels.  A similar high degree of radon exists throughout the Sierra Nevada because of the granite batholith which formed the mountain range.  The City of South Lake Tahoe, to its credit, has applied for a grant to assess and fix lead paint and indoor radon levels in low income housing, but not much else.  The County of El Dorado (as well as other Sierra Nevada counties) has done next to nothing to address, fix, or publicize the problem, aside from handing out a few free test kits with very little publicity.  Ditto for the building departments and their new building permit process.

So how does this affect the Sierra Nevada Geotourism project?   I assume it is your charter to promote areas with geo-tourism potential.  Your target audience is people who are concerned about the environment and the effect their vacation would have on the environment.  Geotourists typically care that they will lessen their impact on the places they go and in the way they recreate (human power vs. gasoline power, etc.) by being green.  But they should also be made aware of how the environment impacts them.  Where danger exists, they should be warned on how to avoid problems.  Thus far, all of the major players in our economy; businesses, government agencies, real estate, and even residents have largely ignored radon or worse, lied about it, to keep business as usual.  I am hoping that as geotourism in the Sierra Nevada progresses, the promoters, such as your organization, will at least consider radon an issue to be discussed, not as a scare tactic, but as a fact of life in this granitic area.  I would hope that it would be difficult for promoters of "geo" tourism, to tout it as an alternative, superior, and enlightened form of recreation and yet ignore this very natural "geo" health issue.    

If I can help with the discussion, please contact me. 
Below are a few resources if you wish to do some more digging into the subject.

California Geological Survey map and report: 

California Department of Public Health Radon Program: 

Jeff Miner
Radon At Tahoe

December 8, 2010

Test Your House and Win

The “Test Your Home for Radon and Win Contest” will provide two Carson City, Douglas or Washoe county homeowners with a $1,500 credit towards the installation of a radon mitigation system.

As usual, the Nevada Radon Program is going full force while the California program has stalled. The California Department of Public Health has put their Indoor Radon Program on hold since program manager George Faggella was reassigned within the department last year.

Read full story on the contest.

December 5, 2010

Radon in Natural Gas from Shale

The recent rush to tap Black Shale deposits for natural gas may expose gas customers to radon. Uranium is naturally concentrated in shale deposits and Geiger counters are often used by gas drillers to find potential gas deposits. This article on the Energy Collective blog page was posted by David Lewis on Dec. 1 and 4 days later had already registered 819 hits. This could be a big topic. Here are some highlights from the article:

"The shale deposits that have the US gas industry so excited were studied after WWII by the Atomic Energy Commission and declared to be the largest uranium resource in the US.   

"Because the gas industry is now going after gas by drilling into a uranium resource their new gas is contaminated with many times the radiation their former product contained.

"... some of the people who promote natural gas and ignore its radiation hazard are the same ones who want the nuclear industry shut down over any tiny speck of radiation that can be pinned on it. 

The article and the author's response to comments explain that exposure to all radiation has increased from 360 mrems in 1980 to 620 mrems in 2009, due mostly to medical X-rays and scans. And while this level of radiation is still considered "safe",

..... "Idaho State says using ordinary natural gas in the home exposes you to 9 mrem. Shale gas extracted from a uranium resource at the high end of the normal range cited by Swanson would be 80 times more radioactive than 9 mrem, or 720 mrem."  "... Authorities have stated children should not be exposed to more than 500 mrem .  Most would agree with limiting unnecessary doses for children.   Who needs natural gas in the home so badly they'd tack on 720 mrem to what they and their kids are getting already?"

Read the article.

I have written to Southwest Gas about this article and will post their comments if and when they respond.

For those who want more, here's a technical article on NORM (naturally
occurring radioactive material) on the inside of natural gas pipes.

November 12, 2010

Maine Requires All Rental Units be Tested for Radon

LD 943, An Act To Reduce Lung Cancer Rates in Maine , was signed by Governor Baldacci on June 8. This new law, which requires radon testing in all residential rental properties by the year 2012, will take effect 90 days following adjournment of the 124th Legislature, First Regular Session. Read announcement. This is the only state I am aware of that ANY legislation regarding testing of rental units. Will other states follow Maine's example?

October 20, 2010

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What Does Radon Look Like?

Ever wonder what background radiation looks like? It's all around you but you can't see it. Check out this cool You Tube video using a cloud chamber from a science museum in Berlin, Germany.


Radon in air background radiation

Alpha and double alpha decay of radon from radium

July 8, 2010

Radon in Drinking Water

How dangerous is radon in drinking water? There is no EPA standard, as there is for radon in indoor air. The 1996 Clean Water Act was never approved by Congress. Water companies must report radon, along with other contaminants, in their annual report, but there is no threshold to be in or out of compliance with. South Tahoe Public Utility District claims 1,000 pCi/L in their water, but that is probably an average. I know they are releasing radon through a spray station at one of their wells with higher radon levels. How much is in my or your water is unclear. It's not in the interest of STPUD to cause a stir or create doubt about the safety of their water. STPUD board has told me that as long as they are within Federal and State guile lines, they do not go "above and beyond" to mitigate radon from their wells.

One of the problems is that it's difficult to test for radon in your shower. There is not much publicity about the health effects of excessive radon, radium and uranium in drinking water. There are no legal limits or regulation for it and it's much more difficult or impossible to test for radon in your home drinking water or shower than testing for radon in the air. (Charcoal test kits and electronic radon testers, such as I sell, do not work well in a moist environment, such as a shower, and they take longer than 10 minutes to register a reading).

Here is one critic's comments left on the Radon Professional List Serv:

In the many, many radon in water tests (Thanks Shawn) attached to radon in air tests we have done over the last 25 years I have never, ever, even once seen the EPA's formula for 10,000 pCi/L of radon in water generates 1 pCi/L of radon in air work, in fact it never even been close. It's a (in my opinion) ludicrous theory. It's this simple, if I have a 2,400 sq ft home that I live in alone and my neighbor has a 1,000 sq ft home with 5 children how is it possible that the principle works the same for both families and their respective homes? This is a real life situation, mine and my neighbors. More importantly how much radon does one absorb into their bloodstream during a 10 minute shower at 10,000 pCi/L? How long does it stay in the blood stream? What becomes of the decay products that occur while the radon is in the blood stream? What does the radon decaying and the associated radioactive decay process do as it occurs within our blood stream and the tissues supplied that very same blood? Is it possible that the elevated risk of childhood Leukemia could be attributable to ingested quantities of radon into the mothers bloodstream when she conceives while living in a home with elevated radon levels thus impacting the mitosis of the zygote as it progresses into a fetus? 1 Alpha decay careening into the developmental process there seems to carry a much greater impact on a zygote undergoing rapid mitosis than on a fully developed fetus or adult from a statistical standpoint based on alpha decays per cell ratio.

This was discussed at a conference some of us attended at Duke University in 2006 but I'm curious to know if there has been any subsequent research. Any Takers out there???

Hopefully research will bring more answers to these concerns (and others). Unfortunately regulation is missing while we wait. Stay tuned.

South Tahoe Public Utility District, STPUD, lists radioactive contaminants in our water that they say are within "acceptable" limits, or are not regulated.

Radon, however, lists at 1000 pCi/L, which is over the 800 pCi/L recommended by the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute. Here is the Institute's recommendations:

The members of the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute (Institute) are pleased to submit to you their recommendation for a Maximum Contaminant Level for radon in drinking water.

Radon is a carcinogen known to occur in New Jersey drinking water supplies at often high levels, with resulting high health risks. The Institute reviewed health effects, analytical methods and New Jersey certified laboratory testing capabilities, and treatment capabilities and costs for radon in drinking water. As radon is unique among drinking water contaminants in that 89% of the risk from radon in drinking water comes from breathing radon in air that volatilizes out of water, a special Radon Subcommittee was charged with this review, including assessment of how to deal with these air exposures.

The statutory health-based goal for establishing a drinking water standard for carcinogens in New Jersey is a one in one million excess cancer risk over a lifetime exposure. The Institute determined that meeting this target was not appropriate, but implementation of a MCL of 800 pCi/L (lifetime risk of 5 in 10,000) for community and nontransient noncommunity water systems will protect the public from unacceptably high concentrations of radon in drinking water. The Institute also recommends NJDEP work with the Legislature to enact mandatory radon testing in indoor air for schools and for homes during real estate transactions, and to consider other mandatory policies to further reduce public health risks posed by radon in indoor air.

Read the full report.

March 14, 2010

Moonshine Ink in Truckee Runs Radon Story

Moonshine Ink - Independent Media for Truckee • North Lake Tahoe, ran a story on radon in their Sierra neighborhood. The article was written by Linda Lindsay, one of the attendees at the Sierra Club meeting (see below). The article did a good job of hitting important facts from the presentation and quoted radon experts such as Susan Howe, director of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) Radon Education Program. The article ended with a comment that I took issue with:

"The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification program even considers Tahoe a “moderate” radon area and does not require radon mitigation to be built into LEED-certified homes. David Gemme, local realtor and vice president of the Sierra Green Building Association says, “Everyone should be aware that radon exists, and should test for it. But I can't see the town jumping on board and creating legislation around it.” When it comes to radon, Gemme says, “We should educate before we legislate.”"

My comment on the article appears below:

"Good article on radon. One correction on the price of an electronic continuous radon monitor, if you are referring to the Safety Siren Pro Series 3, the manufacturer has set $129.99 as the minimum advertised price, not $120 as stated in the article. Also a comment on SiGBA's vice president David Gemme's statement that radon should not be required by legislation: Radon ordinances are common where radon levels are high, just as earthquake or flood ordinances are common where those risks are high. Real estate and building professionals often oppose efforts to require RRNC (Radon Resistant New Construction) via a radon ordinance because of fear of business loss, not because of concern for the occupant's safety. If education were the real issue they would be going out of their way to educate and convince their clients about the high radon in this area and the easy and inexpensive way to fix it as the building is built."
posted by: Jeff Miner on Mar 14, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Read article in full.

February 18, 2010

Sierra Club Presentation

I spoke to about 15 - 20 members of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club at their meeting in Round Hill today. The audience was very engaged, asked good questions and many were determined to test their homes.

View the Power Point presentation. (You must have Microsoft Power Point on your PC or Mac to view the presentation.)

February 16, 2010

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39% of Homes in South Lake Tahoe Have Elevated Radon

The latest California Department of Health Radon survey of actual tests in the South Lake Tahoe area shows that 39% of the homes tested so far have elevated radon readings. This is more than enough to mark the Lake Tahoe portion of El Dorado County as a High Radon Potential area, yet the official EPA Radon Map (nearly 30 years old) shows all of El Dorado County as Moderate Radon Potential.

All real estate transactions in South Lake Tahoe require a Natural Hazard Report to protect the buyer. That report shows South Lake Tahoe as a "moderate" radon area. The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification program also shows Tahoe as a "moderate" radon area and therefore does not require radon mitigation to be built into LEED certified homes in this area. This is deceptive and misleading to buyers and builders.

But so far no government agency or natural hazard reporting company, or the U.S. Green Building Council has been willing to call a spade a spade and report the true radon potential and actual homes tested for radon in the Tahoe area. The chart and data below tell the story.

To verify the data for yourself, go to the California Department of Health Radon web page and at the bottom of the page look at the "test results by zip code - PDF."

View the spreadsheet of Sierra Nevada radon tests

February 13, 2010

Zephyr Cove Schools Testing for Radon .... Again

Three classrooms and a custodial office in Zephyr Cove Elementary School will be retested for radon in the next two weeks after December test results showed elevated levels in these areas. George Whittell High School will also be test for radon because it was not tested in 2009 due to a boiler system replacement. The results will be posted at http://dcsd.k12.nv.us when available.

The Associated Press picked up this article and it was published in the Sacramento Bee. The Bee has thus far refused to run any articles about radon in the Sierras. This may be a break-through.

Read the article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune
Read the AP article in the Sacramento Bee

February 11, 2010

WHO (World Health Organization) Radon Handbook

Eight years in development, WHO has published a handbook on indoor radon which recommends an action level of 2.7 pCi/L, lower than the U.S. EPA's 4 pCi/L. This reminds us to mitigate even under 4, to which the EPA now says "consider" mitigating between 2 and 4 pCi/L. WHO sets the world standard and the recommendations should be given respect.

"The material in the handbook reflects the epidemiological evidence that indoor radon exposure is responsible for a substantial number of lung cancers in the general population.

This publication is intended for countries planning to develop their national radon programs or extend such activities, as well as for stakeholders involved in radon control such as the construction industry and building professionals."

Download or order a copy.

February 3, 2010

Results of NOT Testing for Radon

After seeing a story on the news, Joe Linnertz talked to his wife, Gloria, about getting their home of 18 years tested for radon. But their house wasn't very old, so they decided it wasn't necessary.

A year later, Joe Linnertz, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer that his wife later found out was likely caused by exposure to high levels of radon.

Gloria Linnertz now heads up CANSAR's (Cancer Survivors Against Radon) efforts to push for greater radon awareness and action.

Read complete article

February 3, 2010

Reasons For NOT Installing the Radon Fan in the Living Space

I am often asked by homeowners if it is ok to install a radon fan in the crawl space or in a closet to accommodate an easy installation. Several members of the Radon Professional List Serv sounded off recently on the question of why not to install a radon fan in the living space. I incorporated that discussion into one document as a resource when this question comes up again. This is not the end to the discussion, of course, but these radon professionals make some compelling arguments for sticking with EPA protocols. 

The consensus is to follow EPA guidelines and keep the radon fan outside or above the living space, as in the attic. But not to put it in the basement, crawl-space or interior closet.

Read the reasons

January 27, 2010

Douglas residents testing for radon, but few are fixing problem

The Record Courier reports that Douglas County has the highest testing rate of any county in Nevada, with the highest hits of high radon houses. Yet the number of fixes is very low: 35 fixes out of 514 houses with high radon tests. The Psychology of Radon rears it's ugly head!

Read the article.

January 22, 2010

When Someone You Know Dies, It Gets Personal

I am a member of a list serve for radon professionals where we share concerns and ask questions of each other. This message came across about the personal side of radon risk.

I just wanted to let everyone know about a customer of ours. Her name is Cyndi Schmeider. She called me last Jan. because she had just been diagnosed with lung cancer. She was a never smoker and a stay at home mom. Her doctor recommended that she test for Radon. Her home tested at about 8 pCi/L.

We installed a system for her shortly after. She was instrumental in getting the word out in her neighborhood about Radon and the importance of testing. She was then on a local TV station, with us to help get the word out. Since last year we have installed about 50 systems in her neighborhood. Almost 100% failure rate in that area, and no one knew about it. How many lives might have been saved by her efforts?

She passed away a few days ago, leaving behind a husband and two children. Did the Radon cause her lung cancer? I would bet it had a lot to do with it.

I don't care what a map shows for risk, I don't care what agents or builders say. I push to test every house for Radon and if they pass to test again in two years and if it passes again and again.

This is about the 3rd time I have been through this situation in the last 10 years. I don't know what I would do if my wife was lost and left our kids like Cyndi has. All I can do is push on, stand up to the nay-say ers and hope to prevent this from happening again.

David Daniels

January 12, 2010

My Three Minutes in Front of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors

This Tuesday I drove down to Placerville, in the snow, to be granted a three minute audience with the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors. I dutifully abridged my discussion of the Tahoe radon problem and the deplorable inaction by Environmental Management into the three minute time slot. Radon may be a problem at Tahoe but is still not an issue for El Dorado County leadership. The Supervisors did, however, adopt a resolution declaring January as "Radon Action Month." If only I could get them to put some of that "action" into their own Environmental Management Dept. Apparently the 90% of houses on the South Shore in high and very high radon potential regions, according to the California Geological Survey, (more than Iowa, the highest radon state in the nation!), does not get anyone there excited enough to do more than hand out a few free test kits. Excuse me, but the people of Tahoe deserve a better response to this carcinogen trapped in their houses.
Read the presentation that fell on deaf ears
with map
and chart
Read the County's Radon Awareness Program with only 3 out of 18 items competed in two years.
View the latest local radon test results

January 4, 2010

Douglas County, NV Has a Radon Problem. Stateline, Zephyr Cove and Gardnerville Rank High.

According to an article in the Gardnerville Record Courier, "... the county has had one of the (radon test) highest response rates in the state, with 1,256 valid tests. It also has the highest single number of results higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's action level, with 514 in locations all over the county.... (A)n average of 67.6 percent of Stateline homes tested (had elevated radon). Zephyr Cover comes in a close second at 66.3 percent of homes tested. Third place for the county is Gardnerville's 89460 ZIP code, which extends from the Gardnerville Ranchos to Sheridan Acres and Mottsville, one of the county's most populous regions, where 210 of 383 homes tested had elevated results."

The data comes from the excellent work being done by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Radon Education Program.

Read the article.

Click image for larger version.

December 21, 2009

SiGBA Publishes My Article on the EPA Radon Map

The essence of the article is that the EPA radon maps are out of date and the 2009 California Geological Survey maps and study should be used by the LEED certification program to determine if the Lake Tahoe Region is Region 1, "very high" radon potential (which the CGS survey found) or Region 2, "moderate" radon potential (which the EPA maps show). LEED mandates radon mitigation in region 1 areas but makes it optional in region 2 areas, thus giving home buyers a false sense of security that they are living in a safe, green home in an area where over 28,000 people are living in a "very high" radon potential. The same argument needs to be made to the Real Estate Hazard Disclosure infrastructure, but that's a battle for another day.

Read SiGBA EPA radon map article.

December 10, 2009

SiGBA (Sierra Green Building Association) Sponsors Sustainability Panel Discussion

The usual suspects gathered once again to discuss sustainability on the South Shore. Green Building is a force, albeit a small force, in our local economy. I raised the issue of radon maps not being accurate, and SiGBA Executive Director, Donna Walden, asked me to write an article on radon for the SiGBA newsletter. I also sent copies of the article to USGBA Northern California and Nevada Chapters hoping to change LEED requirements in the Sierra Nevada.

Read email to USGBC Northern California and Nevada Chapters
Read letter to SF Chronicle, EPA and USGBC

November 26, 2009

State Mining and Geology Board Meeting Recognizes Tahoe Radon Study

The California State Mining and Geology Board, at their November meeting, cited the California Geological Survey (CGS) recently published Special Report 211 titled “Radon Potential in the Lake Tahoe Area, California.”

"As reported, based on indoor-radon survey results, the radon potential zone map for Lake Tahoe developed by CGS, and 2000 census data, an estimated 23,400 people in the Lake Tahoe area live in residences likely to equal or exceed 4.0 pCi/L. An estimated 6,100 people live in houses that will likely test at 10 pCi/L or more, and about 900 are estimated to live in houses that will likely test at 20 pCi/L or higher."

Read the Executive Summary.

October 14, 2009

One Third of Incline Village Homes May Have High Radon

The North Lake Tahoe Bonanza reported the tests results of a study performed by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension's Radon Education Program. Douglas County showed elevated radon levels in more than 40 percent of the homes. Read article.

October 13, 2009

SiGBA Asked to Petition LEED to Use Current Radon Data

I sent a letter to Eli Meyer, President of our local Sierra Green Builders Association, asking that organization to put their considerable "Green Building" weight behind getting the LEED Certification Program to recognize that the Tahoe Area has High and Very High radon potential. The April 2009 California Geologic Survey Radon Map of Lake Tahoe is much more accurate than the 20 year old EPA radon maps that show the radon potential around Lake Tahoe to be only "Moderate." Read the letter.

September 11, 2009

Radon Info at the Barton Health Fair

El Dorado County Environmental Health handed out free radon test kits and info at the Barton Health Fair. Nevada also had a booth and test kits for Nevada residents. Read article in the Tribune.

July 22, 2009

2900 visitors to radon at tahoe.com

The United Nations Issues Report on Radon

New studies have found direct evidence of a lung cancer risk from the presence of colorless, odorless radon gas in many homes, a United Nations committee said in a report released Tuesday. Officials on the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said the finding provided the first quantifiable evidence of the risk in homes from radon, long seen as a potential health risk. Read U.K. Rueters article and more complete MSNBC article.

July 12, 2009

Radon Mines: Breathe Radon for Your Health??

Radon Mines are alive and well in Montana. Many people have reported radon treatment to be effective medical treatment for arthritis, bursitis, and other painful ailments. Hoax? Hidden truth? Nonsense?? Read the article in the Montana Great Falls Tribune. Let's see what response the scientific radon community has to the claim of health benefits from a radioactive cancer-causing gas. Stay tuned.

7-14-09: Henry Boyea of Radon Control responded: "It would be interesting to track long-term lung cancer incidence in these people."

July 1, 2009

Home Owner Associations Balk at Radon Mitigation

Brian Woodruff, Environmental Planner from Fort Collins , Colorado put out this question on the RNPROF Listserv:   

Question:  Does anyone have experience or suggestions on how to deal with a condominium Home Owners Association that flatly forbids radon mitigation?

Read the answers he received from radon professionals across the nation.

May 30, 2009

Sac Bee Runs Story on Tahoe Radon Map

El Dorado County issued a press release on the Tahoe Radon Map and the Sacramento Bee ran the story. Environmental Management essentially urged that all residents test their home. No mention of a call for a radon ordinance or building radon out in new homes. Read story.

Tahoe Daily Tribune also covered the story, as did the San Jose Mercury, the Los Angeles Times, and many other papers since it was picked up by Associated Press. The problem is that none of the papers showed the map! Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the public missed the visual impact of seeing the big red area from Fallen Leaf Lake to Stateline where people live in South Lake Tahoe.

May 22, 2009

Lake Tahoe Radon Map Shows Very High Risk

The California Geological Survey has released the long awaited study titled RADON POTENTIAL IN THE LAKE TAHOE AREA, CALIFORNIA. The geological makeup of the region closely matched the results of home testing from the 2007 Tahoe Radon Survey. As you can see from the chart below, over 70% of the homes in the Lake Tahoe area of El Dorado County (10,298 out of 13,735) are in the Very High Radon Potential area.  And 77% of the population, or over 25,000 people, are in the Very High Radon Potential area. These are not statistics that will likely be ignored!

This survey should serve as a wake up call to the agencies tasked with protecting our health and safety. Let's hope we see more aggressive radon education and mitigation efforts in the Lake Tahoe area in the coming months.

click for larger view

Click on map for larger view of South Lake Tahoe.

Click on chart for larger image.

Download directly from the CGS web site:
Special Report 211 - Radon Potential in the Lake Tahoe Area, California
Download Report (2.3 MB PDF)     Download Lake Tahoe Map (1.6 MB PDF)

Compare Tahoe Radon Map to Real Estate Map



May15, 2009

USFS Responds to Freedom of Information Act Request on Radon in Supervisor's Building

I received today the US Forest Service response to my FOIA request. I will publish the results after I have had a chance to evaluate it.

April 20, 2009

El Dorado County Begins to Test County Buildings

Environmental Management has finally agreed (though somewhat reluctantly) to test "selected" County buildings. The memo from Gerri Silva, M.S., REHS, Director of Environmental Management read:

"Mr. Miner,  The Environmental Management Department is working with the County's Risk Management Department to assess and conduct initial radon testing in selected County buildings. Thank you for your concern."

The terse tone of the memo seemed to say "go away and stop bothering us." I had hoped that the County would be more forthcoming in sharing information about the planned testing. But at least they are assessing and conducting initial tests. Time will tell.

April 22, 2009

Earth Day: Radon At Tahoe Speaks to the Lake Tahoe Business Club

28 business owners that attend the Lake Tahoe Business Club meeting at the Blue Angel Cafe, heard a talk on Radon and Business At Lake Tahoe. The informal question and answer format allowed members to better understand radon and to (hopefully) decide to test their own homes. I stressed the importance of encouraging a local contractor to get certified in radon mitigation and testing to service our area.

April 14, 2009

Elevated radon levels found at Carson Valley schools

The Record-Courier in Gardnerville, Nevada and later KTVN Channel 2 News in Reno reported on elevated radon readings in Douglas County Schools. The tests were conducted by Douglas Kladder of Colorado Vintage Companies in March. (Doug was my radon certification trainer at CERTI in Colorado Springs back in 2005).

" According to results of a district-wide test, the staff lounge and room 24 at Carson Valley Middle School, room three at Gardnerville Elementary, room G-9 at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School, and more than half a dozen rooms at Whittell High School contain levels of radon above the EPA's guideline of 4.0 pico curies per liter.

In the Valley, levels marginally exceeded the guideline, ranging from 4.1 pico curies per liter at Carson Valley Middle School to 5 pico curies per liter at Pau-Wa-Lu.

However, the results paint a different picture at Whittell High School. Out 56 locations tested on the site, seven yielded elevated levels, ranging from 4.2 pico curies per liter to 13 pico curies per liter. "

Hopefully, after the Zephyr Cove Elementary radon fiasco last year, the School District will not want radon to become a political football. They will likely be serious about dealing with it properly. That's a good path that other government agencies should follow.

March 25, 2009

Sustainability Commission Asked to Include Radon in City Sustainability Plan

The newly formed Sustainability Commission for the City of South Lake Tahoe met for the first time today. I asked that radon be included in the City's plan for Sustainability. I presented three documents:

1. The letter I had previously sent to Darin Dinsmore on why radon should be part of a sustainability plan for the City.

2. The Build Radon Out handout that failed to protect most of the 252 Angora Fire homes from being re-built without radon protection. The Radon Ordinance was voted down by the County Board of Supervisors and the City Council so building radon out was never required. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes.

3. The LEED For Homes Check List that does not designate this area as a high radon area, and therefore does not require radon protection to be built into LEED Certified Homes. Instead LEED only gives 1 point for radon protection in what they call a "moderate" radon area.

Hopefully the new California Radon Map of the Tahoe Basin will change how this area is viewed by LEED and Real Estate Hazard reports when it comes out this Summer.

March 11, 2009

Tahoe Green Party Hears Radon Presentation

The Tahoe Green Party, which meets at Lake Tahoe Community College, and is a college club, invited me to speak about radon in the Tahoe Basin. About 15 members engaged in a lively question and answer session after the Powerpoint presentation. Rod Walton, club President, recommended that members test their own homes and said the club would support efforts to get radon information out to more people.

March 17, 2009

Freedom of Information Act Filed on Forest Service Radon Problem

Radon At Tahoe filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain the facts regarding the high radon readings in the U.S. Forest Service Supervisor's Building in South Lake Tahoe, CA. U.S. Forest Service personnel have refused to answer basic questions regarding testing and mitigating of the 5 year old three story structure, one of the largest office buildings in the Tahoe Basin.

Over a year ago an employee tested his/her workspace for radon and found very high levels. Once the problem was known, the Safety Officer was forced to test the entire building and found reported readings as high as 20 pCi/L with up to 60 pCi/L in the crawlspace, which is used to circulate air up into the lobby and throughout the building. At the same time the Forest Service tested many of their out-lying buildings and found high radon readings there also, I was told. Nothing has been reported on these findings. This is a highly visible case because it is documented, it is a fairly new building, and it is the Federal Government with the problem.

Read my written request. I have included the exhausting (this has been going on for over a year!) but fruitless dialog between myself and Forest Service personnel trying to arrange a meeting and requesting test results and mitigation answers. Nothing like being stonewalled by a Federal Bureaucracy to make your day! Let's see if an FOIA filing does any good. Stay tuned. See related item on Dec 2, 2008 below.

Read the report: Radon in the Workplace, The OSHA Ionizing Radiation Regulations

Read OSHA's Occupational Exposure Limits for Radon.

March 4, 2009

Radon in the News in Incline Village

"Lake Tahoe Area High in Radon Gas" was the title of an article in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. The author, Kyle Megan, interviewed me for this article and used my quotes a few times. He also made reference to the Radon At Tahoe web page, which was a nice bonus. He discussed why our geology raises the number of high radon homes in this area. Adrian Howe of the Nevada Department of Public Health and Wayne Fischer, an Incline resident, were also quoted in the article. Read the article.

March 3, 2009

Lake Tahoe Community College President Urged to Test for Radon

Because of the of the college to the U.S. Forest Service building, which tested high for radon last year, and also to say hello to the new LTCC President, Paul Killpatrick, I wrote an email urging LTCC to test their buildings for radon. Read my letter.

March 2, 2009

"Green Tahoe" featured in Sacramento Bee

Explore, the Arts and Travel section of the Sunday Bee, reported on eco-friendly lodgings and restaurants at Tahoe. The article covered many places to eat that provide organic food and places to stay in clean and green surroundings. However, the article failed to mention if the green establishments offered clean indoor air or if radon had been tested for or eliminated. I responded to the article blog with this comment:

Nice article for what it was able to cover. There is of course more to the green movement at Tahoe than this article was able to mention. My biggest complaint with any discussion of "Green" at Tahoe is the low profile radon is getting. Not to shock anyone, but radon causes lung cancer. Radon exists everywhere, but is higher in the granitic soils of the Sierra Nevada. LEED, the green building standard, gives points for radon reduction in new residences but not commercial buildings. Also, it does not "require" it because the out of date EPA radon maps show the Sierra as a "Moderate" radon risk area, whereas the more recent 2007 Tahoe Radon Survey shows the same area as "High" radon risk.

We all want to assume that our indoor air is "safe" but with half the homes in South Lake Tahoe showing elevated radon readings, there should be more emphasis on radon testing and radon mitigation in any discussion of the Green Movement at Tahoe.
See http://www.RadonAtTahoe.com

Read article.

February 25, 2009

2487 visitors to radon at tahoe.com

"Builders Don't Take Radon Seriously"

Longtime radon mitigator, Jay Bauder, shares my frustration in not being able to convince builders to use standard RRNC (Radon Resistant New Construction) methods when building new homes in a high radon area such as Tahoe. Here is part of our correspondence that helps to explain the uphill battle to make Tahoe homes safer. I am especially saddened that I was unable to convince more than a few of the owners and builders of the 252 homes destroyed by the Angora Fire to build radon out when they rebuilt. But this is what we are up against:

Hi Jeff,
It is depressing.  I've been a Radon Mitigator since 1987.  I have been talking to builders since the beginning.  I think it boils down to several things.  First and foremost is the fact that builders don't take radon seriously.  Secondly, they view it as an obstacle to selling their product.  Thirdly, ignorance and lax code inspections and enforcement.  I am no fan of government micro managing, but one of the things I see are code enforcement officers who wouldn't know a radon system if it smacked 'em upside the head.  Very few municipalities around here have anything other than a box to check off on an inspection form.  If there is a pipe, it gets checked off.   Somewhere in the mix is the time factor.  Most builders are too busy with day to day affairs to focus on the radon issue.  I guess time would be 1A.  If they took the radon threat seriously, they would make time, but if they don't see the value in building a proper radon system into their homes, nothing will change their minds.   I also learned (when attending the "workshops" with the PA-DEP), that the Pennsylvania Builders Assoc and the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors are a couple of very powerful lobbies.

I had given up on even talking to builders about radon, because it never lead to any work for us.  I was hoping that after attending Trudy Smith's training seminar (twice) about "Changing the Paradigm", and marketing the green message, the advantage of a sub-slab system being used for Active Dampness Control, I was re-energized.  I sat down with 6 different builders.  There comments can best be summarized this way; "Everyone wants to build green, but no one wants to pay for it."

I am again at the point where I'm not going to waste my time trying to market to builders.  They know that I'm here, and they know if they have any questions I am here to answer them, but I am tired of throwing time and money down a hole.  I'm sorry if the only idea I have left is venting my frustration on the internet, but I'm hoping that by doing so I can make more people aware of what's going on.  Maybe someone else will read my posts and come up with some fresh strategies.  I sure hope so.

Please feel free to share this with anyone,

Jay Bauder

February 5, 2009

We Ask American Profile Magazine To Run Radon Story

Radon At Tahoe has requested that American Profile Magazine tell the story of how radon affects American families. The tragedy of loosing a loved one would make a compelling story if a few of the 21,000 Americans who die each year from radon induced lung cancer, had their story told in this well-read magazine. Many other Americans might consider testing their home after they read about what has happened to others who have lived in high radon house and did not know about it. Read the complete request letter.

January 29, 2009

UNR Cooperative Extension Begins Radon Outreach

Under the direction of Susan Roberts, the Nevada Radon Education Program is making "radon waves" in the Carson Valley and on the Douglas County side of Lake Tahoe. Adrian Howe, Radiation Physicist and Director of the Nevada Radon and Radiology program, made a presentation on radon risk to about 30 residents of both states at the TRPA building at Stateline. 320 residents of the Carson Valley heard a similar talk the evening before. Free test kits were handed out at both events. Expect to see more activities as the Nevada Radon Program through UNR gets up to speed.

Click image for larger version

Tahoe Daily Tribune story

January 28, 2009

Psychology of Radon "To-Do" List

Sigmund FreudAfter listing the letter below on the Radon Professional List Serve, I had several interesting responses from scientists and radon professionals in the industry, which I have listed on my Marketing page. Here's one from William Field:
I have been working with a family that unknowingly had a mine drilled under their home.  The mother of the family died yesterday morning with small cell lung cancer 3 month after diagnosis.  They never tested for radon until last week. The radon test results came back (35 pCi/L) the day before she died.   Another statistic, except to her family and friends.

Here is my "To-Do" List to get the promoting of radon risk into high gear:

1. Form an AARST committee to accomplish the items on this list. I, for one, would be willing to serve on that committee.

2. Examine the role of AARST in the promotion of risk awareness as opposed to their role in the promotion of the science of radon, so we avoid being accused of "fear mongering," as Kevin Stewart warned.

3. Coordinate with the EPA, using Kristy Miller as our contact person, as William Field suggested. Understand the benefits of using the EPA as a promoter of radon risk awareness because the industry is often viewed as being self serving, as Andy George pointed out, yet understand EPA's limitations and sometimes lack of public credibility, as Mike Booth suggested.

4. Coordinate with the Ad Council and understand their history of radon ads, as Jim Kruger suggested.

5. Review the existing reports and studies relating to risk communication from past AARST conferences, as Ray Johnson suggested.

6. Invite such experts as Peter Sandman and Neil Weinstein, and others in the risk communication field to address our annual conferences, as Jeff Miner suggested and Trudy Smith is investigating.

7. Understand our options and power in the radon debate and know when to "take the gloves off," as Al Gerhart suggested. In other words, define our goals and then create a strategy and game plan for getting there.

8. Develop goals and strategies at the national, state, local and grass roots level to encourage AARST members to promote radon risk awareness at whatever levels they are comfortable with, as Robb Packer and Dr. Alan Peterson suggest.

This is certainly not the end of the discussion on how AARST might contribute to increasing public awareness and acceptance that radon as a high risk hazard. I am sure there will be many opinions within the AARST membership on how and why a scientific organization should approach or should not approach the warm fuzzy social sciences of public opinion and emotional appeals. We may feel we have the science of radon pretty well tied down, but judging from the results so far, we have a long way to go to convince the public that it's a problem worthy of their time and effort to correct. If "Working together to save lives" is really our motto, scientists may have to step outside their comfort zone and learn to work with marketers.

January 22, 2009

The Psychology of Radon: Outrage versus Apathy

Sigmund FreudHave we learned anything in the last 30 years about why most people would rather avoid radon than deal with it? I did some research and found two Rutgers University professors (emeritus) who have spent their careers trying to understanding why some people react to high risk situations with apathy and low risk situations with outrage.

Peter Sandman and Neil D. Weinstein have developed the theory that RISK = HAZARD + OUTRAGE. They have studied radon testing and mitigation and classify it as HIGH HAZARD with LOW OUTRAGE.

As we start to understand these 20 and 30 year old studies, we will have a better chance in communicating radon risk to people in high risk areas.

Here is how one radon professional responded:


Your perspective on this as a newcomer to the issue is refreshing. The psychology of radon awareness is probably best understood by those of us that provide radon services to the public. The demand for these services is our sole source of income. Our businesses thrive or fold because of public perception. We could fill volumes on radon awareness.

I worked for years for a company providing consulting services to the commercial nuclear power industry. One assignment took me into the reactor containment at St. Lucie Nuclear Power Station during an outage to do damage surveys with some Florida Power & Light Engineers. The task was on the overhead crane structure about 40 feet above the fuel pool. Areas of the containment were taped off and HP Techs were all over keeping us away from very dangerous radiation areas. It was intimidating to enter the area dressed in yellow PC's , gloves, boot covers and hoods and knowing that we were to be exposed to radiation. We of course wore dosimeters to monitor our exposure.

The area was strangely lit and was a weird environment draped in yellow and purple tape and warning signs. During our walk and climb to the survey area, I was suddenly struck by the realization that it felt no different than being in my living room. I knew rationally that there would be no sensation but with all the visual warnings and clothing intuitively you expect to be hot or feel a static charge or something. But the longer you are there the more complacent you become. The inability to perceive the radiation makes you unconcerned about the potential danger regardless of what your mind knows and the signs say.

Translate this into a homeowner. Home from the workday, they sit on the couch in the game room warm and comfortable with the spouse and kids. It is the safest most comforting environment that life offers. They have heard a bit about radon, but it doesn't register that it could be in their home. We continually have home sellers say they were shocked to find they had radon.

I agree with you “What might be needed is to take off the gloves and start scaring the bejesus out of consumers with the facts.  CANSAR is an excellent start.”

We Radon Stakeholders have been a timid bunch. We have debated the minutia for years while public apathy grew. The apathy and years have dampened our outrage and strained our dedication. The wonderful people of CANSAR are a tiny representation of the undeserving victims of this preventable radiation. They should not be subjected to this horrible disease because public awareness campaigns are too infrequent and too vague.

The question is: How do you foster awareness and fuel outrage with minuscule funds and overwhelming apathy?

John Mallon
Radon Detection and Control

January 13, 2009

Radon Cancer Survivors March on Washington D.C.

Liz HoffmanCANSAR, Cancer Survivors Against Radon, is one of the most credible groups to ask for better radon awareness and action. These folks got lung cancer from radon and survived! "And," as they put it, "the few of us, like me, who have linked the cause to radon exposure, are struggling to survive. It's difficult to create an advocacy group when 85% of the victims die within 4-5 years of being diagnosed." This group of fighters are taking their demands for better laws and more action to Capitol Hil later this month. There will be more on this as the story develops. Read their captivating and motivating press release.

January 13, 2009

School District Board Hears Radon Request for New Acadamy

Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education heard my request that their new Academy building, which will teach "Green Building," be constructed using RRNC - Radon Resistant New Construction. This will be a challenge because getting commercial buildings built with radon resistant construction, even for "Green" buildings, will take some persistance and insistance by Board members. Read my presentation to see what I mean.

January 13, 2009

Board of Supervisors Hear Radon Update

I spoke again at the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors requesting that they proclaim January as National Radon Action Month for El Dorado County. I used the opportunity to review what has happened since last years Resolution. Read my request. I also listed last years Radon Awareness Program goals from Environmental Health and listed the 4 out of 29 line items that were accomplished all year. Poor performance by E.M. to say the least.

January 4, 2009

High Radon Levels Reported in Northern Nevada

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension's Radon Program issued a news report that stated: "... 35 percent of homes tested in Minden and Gardnerville have elevated levels of radon. Nearly 60 percent of homes in Stateline, Glenbrook and Zephyer Cove have higher levels of the gas."

The news has been covered by at least three Nevada newspapers and three television station so far. I sent a copy to the Tahoe Daily Tribune in the hopes that they will run a story (nothing so far as of 1-5-09). Let's hope this starts some serious radon awareness in Northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe during National Radon Action Month!

Read the coverage in the news media:

Nevada Appeal - Reno

Las Vegas Sun - Las Vegas

The Record-Courier - Gardnerville

KRNV TV - Reno

KTVN TV - Reno

KOLO TV - Reno

Read my letter to Susan Roberts, Manager of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Radon Program, responding to the news report and requesting we coordinate our efforts.

January 1, 2009

2334 visitors to radon at tahoe.com

January is National Radon Action Month

Visit the EPA Radon web site for information on national and local events.

Local Events:
Douglas County in Nevada, in conjunction with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension's Radon Education Program is conducting a free public meeting Jan. 29, from 7-8 p.m., at Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 128 Market St., in Stateline.

I am aware of no other events being planned for South Lake Tahoe, or El Dorado County California, a sad commentary on our low interest in eradicating radon.

2010 National Radon Poster contest for youth ages 9 - 14 starts now. For the 2009 contest, there were no entries from California, also a sad commentary.

December 2, 2008

USFS Supervisor's Building Attempts to Mitigate Radon

The United States Forestry Service's flagship building in South Lake Tahoe discovered elevated radon levels over a year ago. Continued inquires have finally prompted USFS officials to share with Radon At Tahoe some of their methods for fixing the problem in one of the largest office buildings in the Tahoe Basin. The complete story has not been fully disclosed yet, but we are encouraged that a solution is finally being attempted to make the building safe for employees and the public. Read my letter and their response so far. I am still puzzled about the effectiveness of a "crawlspace depressurization" system without the use of a sub-membrane. I will continue to monitor this in the hope that more information will be forthcoming.

December 2, 2008

Radon Map of Lake Tahoe Basin? Not Yet.
Geological Map? Available Now.

The Radon Map of the Lake Tahoe Basin is still under development. See other radon maps for California. While we wait, the California Geological Survey has made a 2008 Geological Map of the Lake Tahoe Basin available in poster and digital format. To order, call Vera, California Geological Survey, 916-445-5716.

December 1, 2008

Disclosure of Local Hazards Ignores Radon

The local hazards disclosure statement, which is routinely handed out to buyers by real estate agents on the South Shore, completely leaves out any mention of radon as a known hazard in this area. In 2007 the State of California found that over half the houses had elevated radon levels in the 9 zip code area of the City of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County portion of the Tahoe Basin, so it should be disclosed to buyers. Radon At Tahoe is attempting to work with the South Tahoe Association of Realtors to add radon to the list of known natural hazards in this area. Read the local hazards disclosure.

November 21, 2008

Outreach to Board of Realtors

The South Tahoe Association of Realtors is considering allowing me to address the Board of Realtors. This would be a great opportunity to enlist the support of realtors, some of who have seen radon as a threat to a sale and have downplayed the need for testing at time of sale. If presented sensitively, we could gain support from this influential force in our community. Read my second letter. (See below for first letter.)

November 20, 2008

Outreach to Sierra Nevada Alliance

Sierra Nevada Alliance has brought together nearly 85 grass roots groups aimed at protecting the natural environment of the Sierra Nevada Region. Their mission is "to protect and restore the natural resources of the Sierra Nevada for future generations while promoting sustainable communities." I asked the question: Is protecting people from radon part of a sustainable community? Read my letter and their response.

November 19, 2008

Outreach to Barton University Resource Center

What better way to get radon out to the community than by partnering with Barton Memorial Hospital's education and outreach arm, Barton University? They already perform free health checkups, among other community services. Radon education and helping people test for and deal with radon would be the purpose of this unique partnership. Read my letter.

November 19, 2008

Should You Test Your Granite Counter Tops for Radon?

Recent news stories of radon coming from building materials, mainly granite counter tops, have generated concern and controversy. Could radiation in the granite be contributing to the radon in the house? Don't panic: most granite counter tops are safe. It's only a small percent that have a problem, and then often only in "hot spots". It is likely that most radon in your home comes from the soil under the home, not from building materials. Testing the air in a home and curing the soil radon problem is the most effective way to keep your family safe from radon.

However, if you are concerned, Radon At Tahoe is now able to help home owners test their granite counter tops (or floors) for radioactive "hot spots" caused by the uranium, radium or other naturally occurring radioactive elements that can be found in granite. If you are building or remodeling a house, we can check the granite at the fabrication shop before it is cut. Contact us for a consultation.

These photos shows a "hot" piece of granite at a granite counter top cutting shop. Certainly not every counter top is this hot, but these are real readings from these two counter tops. 500 urem/hr is high, by the way. There is no "safe level of ionizing radiation, but keeping radiation from all sources to a minimum or at least below the yearly threshold of 100 millirems is what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends. I am not a Health Physicist or Nuclear Physicist so I cannot do radiation dose calculations. However I can screen for high gamma rays emanating from a countertop or flooring and if they are high I can recommend that you call for a trained nuclear specialist to take it to the next step. (See the discussion on the granite industry and how to interpret gamma readings in the update at the end of this posting.)

How does this relate to radon? Hot granite will put out radon, no doubt. But most radon comes from the soil under the house and that is what certified radon mitigators address. Counter top testing is only for the homeowner's information and peace of mind since the topic recently made the news. View Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended maximum exposure guide.

Contact us to request a test.

UPDATE 12-3.08: Read some of the discusson on testing granite counter tops from the Radon Professional List Serve. Very good scientific, moral and legal discussion of the topic. The jury is still out on how to ultimately deal with radiation in granite counter tops.

November 3, 2008

All Real Estate Transactions Should Include a Radon Test (or at least disclose it as a hazard).

Some think that this should be part of EVERY real estate transaction:

I choose to have (ACME Home Inspections) conduct an indoor radon test of the home according to EPA Protocol for an additional fee of ($XXX.)
( Buyer's Signature ) ¬

Against the strong recommendation of EPA, ACME Home Inspections and my agent, I have elected not to test the home for the presence of indoor radon gas and assume all liability for elevated radon discovered after the transaction closes.
( Buyer's Signature )

It is time for Tahoe real estate agents to follow the recommendations of their own National Realtors Association and the EPA, and strongly recommend that EVERY house sold be tested for radon. Read my letter to South Tahoe Association of Realtors.

October 29, 2008

Radon Strikes Children Too
Lori A. Folweiler

Bill Brodhaed, a radon professional in Pennsylvania reports: "I have always assumed that lung cancer only happens to those 30 years and older.  A year ago I was visiting a home to provide a mitigation estimate and I learned the family's daughter, Lori, was going through chemo therapy for lung cancer.  She was only 19 years old at the time.  The home was a 1965 ranch style with a finished basement.  The radon levels in the finished basement had measured 59 pCi/l.  Lori was not a smoker but had grown up in this home.  Last Wednesday she passed away.  I heard that another patient in the hospital said she was an incredible up-beat person.  We were able to reduce the radon levels in this home but not able to help Lori." Read obituary in the Morning Call.

Saving the Lori's of the world is the reason Radon At Tahoe exists.

October 27, 2008


2227 visitors to radon at tahoe.com

Mom Loses Battle With Radon-Caused Cancer

It happened in South Carolina, but it could just as easily have happened in South Lake Tahoe. Monica Pryor, 38, died today of radon-induced lung cancer, leaving behind a husband and three children. Monica was diagnosed with the cancer shortly after the birth of her youngest son. Doctors attributed the cancer to the high levels of radon in her home. "I've never smoked a cigarette a day in my life, so it wasn't from smoking," Pryor said. She encouraged others to test their home for radon. "The possibility of anyone in this area having it is huge," Pryor said. "So with a free test, not to do it seems a little bit foolish to me." Read first article and second article and please view the videos.

October 23, 2008

Builder Sued Over Radon Systems Not Installed

152 West Virginia residents are suing their builder, Richmond American and its parent company, Denver based MDC Holings, Inc. claiming the companies failed to install functioning radon-removal systems in their homes. A radon specialist discovered that the radon-removal systems supposedly built by Richmond American were never installed as legally required under West Virginia law, the suit states.

Darren and Laura Bryan, also parties to the May lawsuit, said their home's radon-mitigation system was really a pipe to nowhere.

"If you stood outside our house, it appeared the radon vent was on the roof. But if you tracked the pipe, it just stopped," said Laura Bryan, who is concerned about the health of her two teenage children. "It didn't connect to anything. If this had not been discovered, we don't know what could have happened over time." MDC, the 10th-largest homebuilder in the country, declined to comment. See original posting on June 23, 2008 on this page. Read full story in the Denver Post.

September 15, 2008

Las Vegas International Radon Symposium

Radon At Tahoe will attend the 2008 International Radon Symposium this week in Las Vegas. The purpose of the conference is to bring together scientists and radon professionals from all over the world to share their progress and discuss ideas on getting radon out of more homes and into the consciousness of more political leaders. I hope some teaching is provided on how to pass a local radon ordinance, a task I have initially failed at, but one at which I still hope to eventually succeed. Read my letter to the conference attendees regarding that effort.

September 12, 2008


2136 visitors to radon at tahoe.com

Sustainable City Workshop Should Include Radon

The City of South Lake Tahoe hired consultant Darin Dinsmore of DinsmoreSIERRA consulting firm in Reno, to lead area residents in designing a sustainable city and economy. I hope to be working with that group to insure that radon is included as a health and safety issue as we plan for the sustainable future of our community. Read my letter to Darin. Read Tribune article. Read my shorter version to be entered in the meeting summary.

August 18, 2008

Radon has dropped to safe levels at Zephyr Cove Elementary School

Zephyr Cove Elementary School finally has it's radon under control. The school district brought in a volunteer group of radon professionals to help mitigate the radon. William Bell of the Conference of the Radiation Control Protection Directors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to radiation protection issues, reported that previous efforts to control the gas had been ineffective.

Members of Bell's team included Adrian Howe and Eric Matus of Nevada's state health department, Bob Stilwell and George Faggella. They worked with district staff to install a system that prevents the radon from entering the building in six buildings.
Read news article.

August 9, 2008

Consumer Reports Rates Radon Test Kits

The September, 2008 issue of Consumer Reports addresses radon for the first time. The article was not aggressive enough, in my opinion, to get many readers to take radon seriously (the biggest challenge by far, more so than the accuracy of the test kits), but they did explain the dangers of lung cancer and they did rate a few of the radon test kits on the market. Radon test kits have varied in their accuracy according to studies within the scientific radon community, specifically AARST (American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists). Now a respectable consumer organization has added to the data and their marketing should reach a much larger audience.

The $5 test kit offered by the State of California DPH Radon Office, produced by Dr. Home Air of Carrollton, Texas, was not part of the study. The electronic Safety Siren that we sell made the test. The EPA allows a full 25% variance on radon test accuracy, which all test units are supposed to meet. Reports like this will keep radon test manufacturers and labs on their toes to do the job right or loose business. Good Job Consumer Reports!! Read the full article.

July 24, 2008

Surgeon General’s Warning:
Cigarettes are a Major Source of Radiation Exposure?

It's not on cigarette packets yet, but the authors of a new study in the American Journal of Public Health hope that the Polonium-210 in cigarette smoke will generate more public concern and government regulation. Polonium-210 is one of the radioactive by-products of radon and is a major cause of the lung cancer associated with radon. But for fear of the public associating smoking with radiation, for 40 years the tobacco industry has known about and covered up the fact that Polonium-210 is in cigarette smoke. Read full report.

July 24, 2008

Radon May Have Tie To Childhood Leukemia

Currently the EPA recognizes radon as causing only one type of cancer: Lung Cancer. However studies from Denmark suggest that Children who live in homes with high radon levels may be at increased risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia during childhood, but not other childhood cancers. Read full article

June 23, 2008 Developer sued over radon

What we won't do for a buck! CHARLES TOWN, New York — A total of 10 current and former homeowners in the Locust Hill subdivision in Charles Town are suing the builder of their homes, Richmond American, and its parent company, MDC Holdings in Denver, for allegedly failing to install functional radon removal systems, and in one case allegedly installing fake pipes to intentionally deceive building inspectors. Read the article.

June 13, 2008

Sierra Pacific Power asked to include radon education with utility bill

One of the goals of the Radon Awareness Program of El Dorado County Environmental Management, is to include radon education materials in utility bills. I contacted Sierra Pacific Power to start the process. Read letter to SPP. Read Radon Awareness Program.

Similar email requests were sent to the other utilities:
South Tahoe Refuse
Southwest Gas

June 12, 2008

Zephyr Cove students may start year at Kingsbury due to radon concerns

"The bottom line is that parents are anxiety-laden about this thing, and we need to assure parents that their kids will be in a safe place where radon is low." Read article

June 12, 2008

The Indoor Radon Abatement Act requires all federal buildings in high risk areas be tested for radon.

Thanks to an email from Joshua J. Kerber, MS, Ohio Department of Health, Radon Licensing Program, it seems that the Indoor Radon Abatement Act already requires all federal buildings in high risk areas be tested for radon. I will cite the Indoor Radon Abatement Act when I contact the other Federal Agencies in the Tahoe Basin:
Coast Guard
US Forest Service
Post Offices
and possibly the TRPA (are they federal, state or regional?)

I will also ask the USFS if they conducted a radon study of their building, three years ago when it was built, as the Indoor Radon Abatement Act requires.

http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/tsca/06.htm http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title15/chapter53_subchapteriii_.html

June 10, 2008

Agencies Contacted with Request to Test for Radon

I hand delivered the Request to Test for Radon document to these government agencies in South Lake Tahoe, Placerville, and Stateline, Nevada. I was usually able to explain the purpose of testing for radon to the manager of the department. Time will tell if the managers request radon tests for their departments and if the requests will actually generate radon tests, knowing how slowly the wheels of government turn. But still, it's a start. I think possibly the unions and employee bargaining units may be the best vehicle to get radon tests into government buildings because they work from the ground up and can use the leverage of employee health and safety issues during negotiations. Thanks to all I had the opportunity to meet and talk to.

Agencies contacted so far:


Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

State of California:
California Tahoe Conservancy
Lahontan Water Quality Control Board
Department of Motor Vehicles

Douglas County, Nevada:
Douglas County Parks and Recreation, Kahle Park

El Dorado County, South Lake Tahoe:
Public Defender
District Attorney
Public Health
Superior Court
Development Services
Environmental Management
Mosquito-Vector Control
Library, South Lake Tahoe Branch
Child Support Services
Probation Department

El Dorado County, Placerville:
Treasurer-Tax Collector
Geological Survey
Human Resources and Risk Management
Environmental Management
General Services
General Services, Facilities Management
Information Technology
Grand Jury
Office of Emergency Services
911 Dispatch
Superior Court
Parks and Recreation

City of South Lake Tahoe:
Police Department
Director of Finance
Administrative Center
Recreation Complex, Ice Rink and Pool
Senior Center
Art Building

City of Placerville
Community Services
City Manager

Unions and Employee Bargaining Units
El Dorado County Employees Assn, Local #1

Newspapers contacted
Mountain Democrat Newspaper, Placerville, CA
Tahoe Daily Tribune, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Mountain News, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, CA
Read news release.

June 10, 2008

I Speak to Board of Supervisors and Request That All County Buildings be Tested for Radon

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors heard my quarterly update on radon progress. Some yawned their way through my three minute presentation. I handed out the EPA/IOG Report which showed that the EPA has not been effective in solving the radon problem and that we need to work harder on the local level; the How-To-Build-Radon-Out document, which I hand delivered to Angora Fire victims and found that most did not know anything about radon, indicating that the County "Outreach and Public Education" is not terribly effective. I used the radon problem in the USFS building to highlight the need to test all County buildings. I also handed out the Request to Test document (view all documents below) Read my presentation After the presentation I walked to the agencies in the El Dorado County Government Complex, handed out the Request to Test document, and talked to managers about why they should test for radon. See agencies contacted, above.

June 9, 2008

USFS Supervisor's Building Reports High Radon

The brand new (4 years new) U.S. Forest Service building near Al Tahoe behind the post office in South Lake Tahoe has reported high radon readings. The designers apparently did not take into account that Tahoe has high radon potential, and did not take steps to build radon out, as the EPA recommends in high radon areas. Radon tests of 16, 20, and 30 pCi/L in some offices were reported.

The testing was done by chance because one of the employees was getting head aches and decided to test to see if radon was the problem. Radon causes lung cancer, not headaches, but the high results of the test alerted the safety officer to test further, confirming high radon levels throughout the building.

The designers made use of a plenum to circulate air throughout the building, but did not plan on radon accumulating in the plenum and be circulated throughout the building with the air. Hopefully this embarrassment to the Federal Government will be a warning to other government agencies to test for radon in their buildings (see Request to Test handout, below). The Forest Service plans to meet with a design team to try and figure out how to mitigate the building. Radon At Tahoe offered our services but so far the USFS has declined the offer.

June 9, 2008

EPA Office of Inspector General Says " We're Not Doing Enough to Protect Public"

Nearly two decades after passage of the 1988 Indoor Radon Abatement Act (IRAA), exposure to indoor radon continues to grow. Efforts to reduce exposure through mitigation or building with radon-resistant new construction have not kept pace. Of 6.7 million new single family detached homes built nationwide between 2001 and 2005, only about 469,000 incorporated radon-resistant features. Of 76.1 million existing single family homes in the United States in 2005, only about 2.1 million had radon-reducing features in place.

Read full report

June 3, 2008

Radon at Tahoe distributes "Request to Test" document to government office buildings in South Lake Tahoe

After speaking to the City Council (see below), I drove to nearly every city, county, state and federal building on the South Shore and handed out the "Request to Test" document. The document states "Radon At Tahoe respectfully requests that every Federal, State, County and City building, whether rented or owned, in the Lake Tahoe Basin be tested for radon." The document lists the basics about radon and then goes on to explain the two school district tests and the new US Forestry Service building with incredibly high radon readings. Those high readings in a new government office building inspired me to request that all government buildings be tested.

The process of driving around town took the better part of a day (with more still to do), but meeting with receptive government workers who were open to being protected from radon was gratifying. Time will tell how many respond by testing. I feel they would be hard pressed to say no. I will speak to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors next week. Read Request to Test document.

June 3, 2008

Radon at Tahoe speaks before City Council

I gave my "quarterly radon update" to the City Council during the public comment 3 minute time slot. I praised the city building department for handing out Radon Basic Facts and architectural drawings of RRNC (Radon Resistant New Construction) systems with all new house plan packets. I passed out the Build Radon Out flyer I handed out to the victims of the Angora Fire, and I challenged the City Council to test all city government buildings for radon. See item above.

June 2, 2008

1884 visitors to radon at tahoe.com

Couple pull children from school over radon worries

Lake Tahoe parent Heather Howell explained to the Douglas County School Board on May 21 why she and her husband, Douglas County Planning Commissioner Lawrence Howell, pulled their two sons from Zephyr Cove Elementary School.

"As parents, we felt our children were not safe," she said. "Because the district has taken too long to make radon mitigation a priority, I feel I can no longer trust them to accomplish other things or take care of basic safety needs."
Read article.

May 30, 2008

HSA Accounts May Pay for Radon Testing and Mitigation

There are reports that radon mitigation is a covered expense under many Health Care Spending Accounts, similar to lead paint removal. In many cases it seems that various providers do not even require a letter, while others want proof that the radon averages above 4 pCi/L. This is truly intended as a prevention measure! Check with your HSA provider to be sure.

May 24, 2008

How to Build Radon Out Flyer Distributed to All Angora Fire Building Sites

In an attempt to educate and persuade more contractors to use RRNC (Radon Resistant New Construction) methods when they rebuild in the Angora Fire area, Radon At Tahoe distributing a flyer to all building sites in the Angora Burn Area. The flyer is also available in the El Dorado County and City of South Lake Tahoe Building Departments, as well as below. One side of the flyer is an EPA Building Radon Out poster. (This is the same poster we hope to place in the El Dorado County Building Department. More on that later). The other side lists the building requirements for RRNC and encourages builders to either hire the process out to a certified radon mitigator, or to read the books and do the job themselves. Read the flyer.

May 19, 2008

Anti-radon activist running for Douglas County School Board

Greg Felton, a vocal critic of the Douglas County School District in its handling of radon mitigation at Zephyr Cove Elementary School and the closure of Kingsbury Middle School, has filed for School Board Area 3 in Lake Tahoe, challenging incumbent and board vice president Cindy Trigg.

"Many parents, and I'm among them, have been frustrated trying to handle issues through the incumbent," Felton said. "In some areas, she has considered her own views more valid and important than those of her constituents." Read article.

May 13, 2008

Meeting with Environmental Management and Building Department on Radon Plan Progress

Radon At Tahoe met today with Ginger Huber of El Dorado County Environmental Management and Bob Green of Development Services to evaluate the actual progress on the Radon Awareness Program. Many items have not been addressed, but some progress has been made. More on the meeting later. Read Radon Awareness Program.

May 9, 2008

Are Granite Countertops Bad for Your Health?

It's a popular upgrade for new homes, but could your granite countertop actually be a hazard to your health? The family who agreed to have their granite countertop tested for radiation wants you to know the answer to that question. They asked that their identity not be revealed, but they would like to share what was found at their home.

“We're living in a world that has radiation in it. And there's nothing that you can do to stop it. However, that's above background. That is an enhanced source of radiation,” said Bill Llope. Llope is a Rice University physicist.

Read article and view video clip from 11 News in Houston, Texas.

View video on YouTube.

I will report on radon scientist's reaction to this news article soon.

Joel Bittle responds:

Published on May 14th, 2008

Posted in Health , Ventilation & Indoor Air Quality


The Marble Institute of America better get ready for another round of fighting because the issue of radon in granite countertops is back. For the past decade, the MIA has been trying, with much success, to squash the rumor that granite countertops have the potential to add dangerous amounts of radon in the home. A new study being conducted by Houston area not-for-profit BuildClean is raising old fears about the dangers of granite countertops, and its preliminary results show that while most granite countertops in the study contain very little to no radon at all, the countertops that do contain radon have levels that are frighteningly high.  While consumers can be secure in the fact that the vast majority of granite is perfectly safe, a small percentage is still in question, and no independent scientific study exists to assuage consumer fears.

The first issue of Solid Surface in 1995 explored the possibility that granite countertops may pose a health risk. Soon, the MIA issued their response , which attacked the credibility of the science involved in the study as well as the fact that the advertisers in the journal included companies that competed with granite countertop manufacturers. But one phrase in the response, a highlighted phrase no less, is troubling: “…actual levels of radon gas emmissions are so low as to be insignificant and generally represent no threat.” As a father, I don't want to be assured that there is “generally” no threat to my family. I want to know there is no threat. And after BuildClean found that 3 of 95 granite countertops contained harmful amounts of radon, would the MIA consider such a small number to be “generally” no threat? I'm sure the owners of those three countertops are not reassured.

Look around for information on radon in granite and you will find many sites telling you the “truth” or uncovering “myths” about radon. Since many of the statistics cited are the same, it's clear that much of the information comes from the MIA response linked above or from an updated (though with the same references) MIA PDF . My personal favorite was a site titled “ Ask an Expert - 9 Myths about Granite ” where they claim that “No one today takes credit for starting the rumor, and certainly no one supports it.” No one? They then make the claim that granite actually has healing properties. Most troubling is the fact that, as experts, they don't seem to know that “lose” is spelled with only one “o.” The most common argument you'll find, that radon occurs naturally, really needs to be taken out of their playbook. Just because it's on the periodic table of the elements doesn't mean I want it in my house. I'm talking to you, Californium.

In late 2007, the MIA scuffled with Home Safety Systems, which sells radon detectors. Like the fight over the original journal article, this seems to be another example of competing companies arguing science, which doesn't sit right with me. The current BuildClean study is funded in part by Silestone and Cambria, two competitors of granite countertops. (Ironically, Silestone is a sponsor of the “Ask the Experts” article above - their logo is at the bottom of the page.)

So how do we start trusting that granite is safe? An independent study done by the EPA would be a good start. Leave corporate interests out of it. And don't give us general findings - tell us exactly what was found. Since radon is found naturally in some parts of the earth, the MIA needs to admit that there is a possibility that some granite will contain radon, and then show how they are making sure such slabs do not make their way into our homes. Are granite countertops screened for radon before reaching the consumer? (Maybe the folks over at Home Safety Systems can help the MIA out with that.) Otherwise, without solid assurances, it won't be long until consumers reject granite outright.

For information on green alternatives to granite, try Green Counter Culture .

Tags: granite , indoor air quality , kitchens , radon


Gary Hodgden comments:
Just a quick note:  While overall contribution to indoor radon levels to any significant degree from granite countertops, pool tables or marble floors is fairly unlikely in most situations, the industrial side of this question strikes me as the true, untold story. I imagine milling and finishing sites as I imagine the old brake factories where asbestos exposure caused the bulk of asbestos deaths.  As we know, the release of radon from powered granite would far exceed anything imaginable from any intact chunk of granite.  In addition, the inhalation of such dust would take the concern to a completely different level of magnitude. 
No doubt, there are several test devices for indoor radon where some guidance should be specified and such work for a generic statement in standards is underway.



April 25, 2008

Sac Bee Article on Lung Cancer Ignores Radon

Anita Cramer headlined the Scene section of the Friday Sacramento Bee with a story on lung cancer in non-smoking woman. Read full article.

The problem is that she left out the probable cause: radon, except for the off-handed mention of the word. Read my response.

April 25, 2008

1798 visitors to radon at tahoe.com

Smoking and Radon
Government compensation to uranium miners

The American Cancer Society warns that smoking greatly increase the risk of lung cancer from exposure to radon. " For people exposed to higher levels of radon, it is especially important to quit smoking. Evidence has shown that the combined effect of cigarette smoking and radon exposure can cause lung cancer. For miners, the synergy between smoking and radon exposure has resulted in extremely high health risks.

For those miners whose health was compromised by exposure to radon, the United States has established a national compensation approach through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, passed in 1990 (Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Committee) and amended in 2000. The act began with an apology to the uranium miners and offered compensation to miners for lung cancer and selected nonmalignant lung diseases, if selected criteria were met. Health care professionals should be aware of the availability of this compensation for eligible persons." Read the full article.

The American Cancer Society is still officially silent on helping with local efforts to publicize or correct radon problems in the Sierra Nevada. Neither the national headquarters nor local chapters have thus far joined us in campaigning for radon reform in residential housing or commercial buildings. Radon at Tahoe will continue to press for local support.

April 19, 2008

The Wall Street Journal Runs Radon Story

"It might be the ugliest home improvement. Last month, I finally did something about my radon problem." Thus begins the story in the Wall Street Journal about a reporter's encounter with a radon installation. Radon is getting some well deserved play on the national level. Read story.

April 1, 2008

Reno Channel 2 News runs Radon Story

For the second time in three months, Reno News 2 KTVN has run a story on radon.


Radon: The Silent Home Invader That Can Kill
By Dennis Thompson , HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- You can't see, smell or taste radon. The gas emanates naturally from the soil, seeping up into homes that rest on the ground. The only way to avoid it, really, is to have a house on stilts.... Read complete story.

March 31, 2008

2008 National Radon Poster Contest

The National Safety Council, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sponsored the 2008 National Radon Poster Contest for children ages 9-14 to generate interest, enthusiasm, and action about radon safety and to increase the number of homes tested for radon. Click image for larger view. View other winners at the NSC web site.

Tahoe schools could enter posters for the 2009 contest. See NSC web site for details.

March 27, 2008

Collaboration Meeting Urged on Radon Education

After the defeat of the radon ordinance by the County of El Dorado Board of Supervisors, Radon At Tahoe requested a "Stakeholders" Meeting to review progress and set goals for better radon education and "encouragement" of RRNC in the Tahoe Basin. Building Services, Environmental Management, Radon At Tahoe and the California Public Health radon scientist were proposed as attendees. Read letter.

March 27, 2008

EPA Now Recommends Mitigation at Lower Levels

Douglas County School Board President, Teri Jamin, received a rare hands-on communication from EPA Radon Team Leader, Phil Jalbert rearding the school's attempt to test and mitigate the radon at Zephyr Cove Elementary School. One very interesting inclusion in the letter was the EPA's recommendation that mitigation for radon be done at levels BELOW the action level of 4 pCi/L.

To quote Mr Jalbert, " Recent  radon  risk  assessments  confirm  that  the  risk  at relatively  low  levels  of  radon is significant.  For this reason, EPA recommends that mitigation be considered at levels even below our action level  of  4  pCi/L  (and  specifically  between  2  and  4  pCi/L)  for residential  structures."
Read the letter

March 25, 2008

Tilting at Windmills
The Impossible Dream

To have a radon ordinance in a town with high radon.
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors rejected a radon ordinance. Read story in Tribune. Read my unsuccessful attempt to convince the Board otherwise, in my three and a half minutes of public comment. It was a day spent waiting in the County Board room in Placerville from 9am until 2pm when the item finally came up on the agenda. My words fell on deaf ears as the Supervisors had already decided to kill the ordinance: The measure passed 3 to 1 to follow staff (Building Department, Larry Lohman's) recommendation to not pursue a radon ordinance. Norma Santiago was the lone desenter. Read the proposal What was learned: Logic may carry little weight in a political arena. Duh! Also, work more within the system rather than presenting before the Board. Read Press Release sent to LA Times, Sac Bee, and Tahoe Daily Tribune.

March 20, 2008

CGS Radon Maps .... we're still waiting

After the 1989 statewide California Radon Survey and the 2007 Tahoe Radon Survey by the California Department of Public Health found that the Sierra Nevada is a high radon risk area, we are still waiting for the California Geological Survey to publish the results in the form of Radon Geology Maps that can be used for Natural Hazard Disclosure reports, for LEED Green Building radon requirements and for building and planning departments to use in recommending or requiring RRNC (Radon Resistant New Construction) techniques. Read my letter to the CGS.

March 13, 2008

Green Building for Angora Fire Victims

County Supervisor Norma Santiago organized a Green Building Open House at LTCC to help Angor fire victims find "green" resources for rebuilding after the fire. It was well attended by home owners looking for information, builders looking for clients and agencies looking to help with the process. Radon At Tahoe had a table and gave out literature and answered questions on building radon out. There is a growing interest in green building and LEED Certification, which requires RRNC (Radon Resistant New Construction) in high radon areas.

March 11, 2008

Radon and Real Estate

I gave a Powerpoint presentation to the real estate agents at Dickson Realty. Dennis Liebl, Broker/Manager of Dickson Realty asked if I could teach his agents the basics of radon, how to test for it, how to fixit and the liability issues. I used the model of a Radon Stragegy and suggested that every real estate agent should develop their own radon strategy to be prepared for questions and to avoid liability. View the Radon and Real Estate Resource Sheet.

March 6, 2008

Tribune Ignores Council's Radon Decision

The Tahoe Daily Tribune did not report on the City Council meeting and the radon ordinance, even though the had previously written an editorial, on September 14, last year, clearly in favor of radon public safety measures and stating that the City Council "...would be well advised to address the issue (of radon) at its next meeting...." Link to story. Read copy. City Editor, Elaine Goodman wrote me asking my recollection at what happened at the Council meeting and I wrote back to her to answer her questions and to chide her for missing coverage of this important radon development. Read my letter.

March 4, 2008

City Council Rejects Radon Ordinance

So Sad. The South Lake Tahoe City Council voted 4 to 1 to discontinue discussions on adopting a radon ordinance for the City. Ron Ticknor, City Building Official made a presentation that did not support an ordinance. I was given the opportunity to respond but was not able to change any minds. Council members Kathay Lovell, Mike Weber, Bill Crawford and Jerry Birdwell voted to end discussion, only Ted Long saw merit in continuing discussion on radon and so voted. We are sorry that the City chose not to take action on this safety issue and protect its citizens from this cancer causing gas. Surprisingly, this comes at a time of renewed interest in radon from other quarters. I will be speaking to 30 realtors at a local real estate agency on Tuesday and to Angora Fire victims wanting to rebuild "Green" at a LTCC workshop sponsored by County Supervisor Norma Santiago on Thursday. Radon is not dead yet. Stay tuned.

March 1, 2008

Douglas County School Board Makes Radon Mitigation No. 1 Priority

The Douglas County School Board voted Tuesday night to make radon mitigation at Zephyr Cove Elementary School the district's No. 1 priority.

"I don't want there to be any question whatsoever: this is our largest priority," said board Vice President Cynthia Trigg during the meeting at Douglas High School. "There is no more time to waste." Read complete story.

February 14, 2008


Tahoe Daily Tribune Features Radon on Front Page

Both the Tribune and the Mountain News reported on the test results at the local school districts. Radon is starting to make headlines, as our public ic institutions begin testing and fixing their radon problems.

Both articles note that radon in the home is a larger problem that can be fixed by individuals. Yet public awareness has not yet translated into public action to test and fix their homes, at least not on a wide-scale basis. Yet these articles add to the growing body of knowledge and concern. Read the article. Read a copy of the article.

February 1, 2008


1589 visitors to radon at tahoe.com

Mountain News runs story of Zephyr Cove Schools

Pickup a free copy at your local news stand or click here to view an image of the article.

February 11, 2008

Douglas School Board to review radon removal

The Douglas County School Board will review current radon mitigation tactics at Zephyr Cove Elementary School during their board meeting Tuesday. The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. at Douglas High School in Minden. District Business Services Director Holly Luna and Dirk Roper, mitigation radon consultant with Fallon Heating and Air, will present a summary report on radon and the alternative mitigation method called active slab depressurization. The sub slab would create a vacuum under the school, which would catch all the gas from the ground, including radon, and release it in another area away from the students. This would prevent the radon gas from entering the school.
The district currently is using high-efficiency particulate air filters, which filters out radon progeny — radioactive particles into which radon decays — after it enters the room. View Article in the Record-Courier.

Note: This comes after the District invested a few thousand dollars in HEPA air filters. Sub-slab depressurization is the EPA-recommended approach.

February 6, 2008

Radon Makes Cover of Tahoe Quarterly

It's not exactly the cover of the Rolling Stone, but this fashionable Tahoe lifestyle magazine promoted radon on the cover and followed up with an informative and well-written article on radon in the Tahoe area. The Mountain Home 2008 issue is not yet up on their web site
(www.tahoequarterly.com), but you can read the article from images here or pick up a copy at your newsstand.

We consider this an important media development because many of the readers and advertisers of the Tahoe Quarterly have yet to understand that radon is a problem or to come to terms with dealing with it. Articles like this get radon on to the table tops and into the conversation of builders, designers and owners of high-end properties around the Lake. Real estate professionals will begin to see more requests for testing of houses for sale as radon goes mainstream.

January 31, 2008

Tribune Reports on Radon News

The Tahoe Daily Tribune ran two new briefs on radon.

January 29, 2008

Termites and Radon: Is there a connection?

Will treating a house for radon increase the chance of termites? Will laying down a radon barrier cloth over the previously dry, aired-out soil under a house, change the soil's moisture content to make it a breeding ground for termites? Will effective radon treatment make effective termite treatment difficult or impossible?

These questions were brought up by my friend Ole Olson of Mountain Termite of South Lake Tahoe. I did some research and found surprisingly nothing written on the topic so I addressed my concerns to a termite researcher, Dr. Vernard Lewis, of the University of California, Berkeley, a radon scientist at the EPA, and the members of the professional radon group, AARST. Read my letter while we await their response.


James Long, EPA:
I have forwarded your comments to a radon mitigation person here. I did a quick look around our site and did not find any discussion of pests or termites or infestation related to radon mitigation systems. I did a google search and noted that a number of home inspectors in more than a couple of states offer multi-tiered inspection services for radon and termites. Have you spoken to any of the local home inspectors to see what they recommend and how they deal with the issue? Just a suggestion...

(Note: In California, radon testing and mitigation require certifications that no home inspectors in the Tahoe Area currently possess, according to the California Department of Public Health Radon web page (as of 2-1-08).. Also, termite inspection requires a separate license in California and is performed by termite inspection companies. I have found no one locally knowledgeable on the topic of termites and radon.)

Mitigation person, EPA:
...A sub membrane depressurization technique in theory could weaken ( dilute ) a already existing pesticide application in a exposed earth crawlspace because of the increased ventilation taking place under the membrane. I have no working experience with this theory. The amount of ventilation that takes place under the membrane would depend on a number of things like : Is the membrane tightly sealed to the foundation walls and to other structural components and how much replacement air is coming from outside the foundation walls. Not knowing the life cycle of termites, I don't think the membrane would stop the termites from returning to the soil because they could go outside the foundation walls. If I'm not mistaken the pesticide application can take place inside and outside the crawlspace foundation wall. So if a radon system is in place the application can take place on the outside. My only recall on a potential problem with pesticide application and radon systems is when a sub slab pressurization system technique is employed and the pesticide vapors can be forced into the living space.

Posted by Gary Hodgden from AARST on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 02:20 pm: With plastic sheeting, it would not seem realistic that moisture content of soil beneath would alter the habits of termites. They travel regardless of moisture wherever they can find food (cellulose). A cloth soil barrier is a problem for life span of the membrane as well as anything that might be composed of cellulose (termite bait). G Hodgden

Posted by Dave Hill from AARST on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 03:54 pm: I agree with Gary. I would also like to add that your depressurization system should be preventing the build-up of moisture under the barrier. In fact, the system should substantially reduce the moisture entry into the crawlspace itself. Which is good for reducing insect activity in general. Dave Hill


The consensuses is that radon abatement should not create a termite problem because the system actually dries out the soil in the process of eliminating radon from under the radon barrier. However, what was not mentioned is that a correct radon installation should not have the radon barrier or plastic sheeting attached to wood, either on the support posts or on the sill plate above the foundation wall. Doing so would allow termites to migrate up into the wood, under cover of the radon barrier and be out of view unless the barrier cloth was removed for inspection, a tiresome job! It's important to use a good polyurethane adhesive, such as S-M SM7108 (see Supply Page) that adheres the radon barrier and plastic to concrete block. This will keep all wood exposed to air and allow for visual termite inspection without removing the radon barrier.

January 29, 2008

South Lake Tahoe City Council Hears Radon Update

I spoke before the City Council to give a radon update and handed out a packet consisting of my notes, the radon resolution adopted by the County Board and the Radon Awareness Program written by Environmental Management. I told the Council that the County appears to be dropping the ball by not pursuing a radon ordinance and that those of us in the Tahoe portion of El Dorado County many have to take the lead if we expect to protect ourselves from radon. I volunteered to be on a committee to study the radon issue for the city. Read the update.

January 27, 2008

KTVN Channel 2 Reno News runs story on radon

One of the few television stations to report on radon, according to Goggle, our own KTVN Channel 2 News in Reno ran a short story on the Sunday news show. The story explained the dangers of radon, that January is National Radon Awareness Month, and that it is easy to test for and fix. Thousands of Sunday news viewers heard the bi-line: "Radon Gas More Deadly Than Carbon Monoxide Poisoning." Read the news story. Read my response .

January 25, 2008

A Weak Response from County Building Officials

After talking to Larry Lohman, it appears that the recommendations to the Board will be to simply include the language of Appendix F of the IRC into Title 15 of the County Building Code. This means that if a builder chooses to add radon mitigation to a building, he must do it in a way that meets the requirements of Appendix F. After we have learned that our area has the highest radon readings in the state and among the highest readings in the nation, this is a poor response from our county officials who are supposed to be concerned for our health. The only way to really build radon out is to require it on all new buildings via a radon ordinance, as most other high radon areas have done. I will try to influence our elected county officials to enact a radon ordinance as a proper response to our radon problems. In the mean time, I will follow the progress of this issue as it develops.

January 15, 2008

Closing in on a Radon Ordinance

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors has stopped just short of directing the Department of Development Services (Building Department) to draft a radon ordinance. Instead they asked Environmental Management and the Planning Department to take two months to come up with "recommendations" to address the radon issue. It is not clear if that means they will spend the time developing a radon ordinance. I have offered my assistance but so far have not been asked to participate.

Here is how the Board of Supervisor minutes read:

48. 08-0099 Supervisor Santiago recommending Environmental Management and Development Services Departments work together to develop a Radon
Ordinance for new construction in the Tahoe Basin.

A motion was made by Supervisor Santiago, seconded by Supervisor Briggs to request the Planning, Building and Environmental Management staff to return to the Board on March 25, 2008 with recommendations addressing the radon issue.
Yes: 5 - Dupray, Baumann, Sweeney, Briggs and Santiago

If and when a radon ordinance is drafted and adopted, it will be the first radon ordinance in California. Radon At Tahoe would consider this to be a major accomplishment of our three year effort to gain support for radon awareness in the Tahoe area. Read my letter to Larry Lohman, Deputy Director - Building Official.

January 13, 2008

Sacramento Bee Publishes My Letter on Radon

For the first time, and after much effort and many letters, The Sacramento Bee finally published one of my letters on radon. My letter was critical of the Bee's lack of reporting of radon news in the Tahoe area. Let's see if they cover the radon ordinance story.



January 08, 2008

El Dorado County Board of Supervisors issue Resolution on National Radon Awareness Month and receives Radon Public Outreach Plan

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors has finally taken action regarding radon nearly a year after I first addressed the board in February, 2007. The resolution is a benign statement that radon is bad, without taking action on how to fix the problem. One of the WHEREAS's states that "one in 15 homes across the United States has an elevated radon level," but the resolution leaves out the fact that one in every two homes in South Lake Tahoe has the same elevated radon level. It's a start, but the Board stopped short of requesting that Development Services (our Building Department) adopt the RRNC code in IRC Appendix F into a radon ordinance in the Lake Tahoe portion of El Dorado County, as Radon At Tahoe has been asking for. Read the resolution.

El Dorado County Environment Management presented a Radon Awareness Program to the Board. The plan covers most of the important areas Radon At Tahoe has been calling for. The goal for any radon-aware citizens out there will now be to monitor the progress of this plan. One important part of the plan is the recommendation that Development Services draft a radon ordinance. When I last spoke to Larry Lohman, Deputy Director of Development Services and Building Official, he said he was not inclined to draft a radon ordinance unless he was directed to do so by the Board. A recommendation by Environmental Management may not have the same clout as a directive by the Board. That will also have to be monitored in the coming weeks. But at least we have the government officials talking about radon. Next will be to see how the City of South Lake Tahoe deals with radon. Read the Radon Awareness Program.

December 2007

Blog about Radon at Zephyr Cove Elementary School

The debate is heating up on the proposed closing of Kingsbury Middle School and the radon found and not fixed at Zephyr Cove Elementary School. Richard and Gary Bolan of Dickson Real Estate have this rather comprehensive report on their blog page. How Douglas County handles the issue of radon at Zephyr Cove, the proposed closure of Kingsbury Middle School, and particularly the parent's complaints about it, could be a lesson on how not to deal with radon in a public institution.

To view the blog:

December 20, 2007

Radon at Tahoe invited to Radon Awards and Recognition Ceremony in Washington D.C.

(Everyone's Invited!) January is National Radon Action Month. The U.S EPA has asked not just Radon at Tahoe, but representatives from government, non-profit organizations, private industry, and communities across the country to attend a ceremony on January 10, 2008 to recognize the accomplishments of radon leaders from the public and private sectors. View agenda. We won't be able to attend this time. Maybe next year!

December 20, 2007

STPUD: Presentation on Radon in Water given to South Tahoe Public Utility District.

The Board listened to my presentation on reducing radon in our public water supply by using aerators at the well. They asked questions, but the final result was that they were not going to spend money to reduce radon below what they are required to do by the federal government. Currently the EPA Water Bill is only proposed (since 1996!) with little hopes of passing. Hopefully STPUD will see the benefit of reducing radon as a public health and publicity benefit even if not a federal requirement. Read presentation.

December 10, 2007

Jeff Miner inducted into AARST - The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists

The AARST web page is a good place to go to view the latest research and points of view on radon issues. From the AARST Mission Statement: AARST is a nonprofit, professional organization of members who are dedicated to the highest standard of excellence and ethical performance of radon measurement, radon mitigation and transfer of radon information for the benefit of members, consumers and the public at large.

December 8, 2007

1455 visitors

Marketing Radon Awareness

Are we ready to market radon better? Read the Marketing Page to find out about our Market Radon Project.

December 6, 2007

Free Radon Test Kits in Incline Village

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Radon Program will make available free radon test kits for NEVADA residents. Test kits will be available at their Reno, Carson City and Douglas county offices and in Incline Village, NV. This is part of the preparations for National Radon Action Month coming up in January.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
Washoe County/Incline Village
865 Tahoe Blvd.   Suite # 110
Incline Village , NV 89452
Phone: (775) 832-4150

December 2007

.... And we get Letters...

Folks from Tahoe to Wisconsin have written to say thanks and to recount their progress in testing and fixing their homes. Here are some samples:

From Kingsbury Grade, Stateline, Nevada, 11/9/07:
I have checked out your website and found it to be very informative…I purchased the Pro Series 3 and have just passed my first 48 hours for testing ….the reading came out at 22!  Talk about a freak out…I have now moved it to another location and will be waiting for the next 48 hours…apparently we have a very big Radon problem!...we have lived here for four years and are located on lower Kingsbury …do you recommend any contractors that work on this problem …because of personal health concerns (history) I do not want to do the fix myself…although I have been in the craw space way to many times…please advise…as this is something that we need to get completed…

From Tahoe Quarterly, 11/15/07:
I am writing an article about radon in the Tahoe Basin for Tahoe Quarterly magazine, and so far all roads lead to you! Are you available for a brief chat? The focus of the article is essentially what is radon, why Tahoe, and what to do about it. I am surprised, given the findings, that not more is being done at the county or state level...I have calls into those agencies as well.

From La Crosse, WI, 12/4/07:
I just wanted to say thanks for the web site. I just got the results back from testing our basement for radon after I installed a mitigation system…myself.  I read and reread your website many times in addition to consulting a professional installer by phone and reading radon installation codes online. I tested twice—short term and long term--in two years before mitigation and had results of 7.1pci and 7.4pci. After mitigation the result is 1.4pci. With all supplies vs. an estimate I had from an installer, I saved $1650 (we have a challenging crawl space). That's even with using the best adhesives, manometer, piping, back draft testing, labels, installing separate breaker and wiring, Fantech 150, etc. Everything meets/exceeds code. I'm a perfectionist, so I plan to add plastic sheeting to some of the seams and retest in a few months just to be sure. It's been in the 10s-20s here in WI. The house is closed and the furnace is running steady (ducts run in the crawl space), so the result seems pretty accurate. I only waited a couple days before testing, though.

Thanks again for your help. I put off the mitigation because of the cost for a few years, but got the system done before our new born son (our first) came home from the hospital. Now he has a great start on his college fund!

From homeowner, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 10/17/07
I took the radon test last spring and had a high reading. I called you and you sold me the book and a continuous monitor. The readings went down for the summer, but are now going up again. So... I have now read the book, come up with plans, and made many lists. I've also come up with many questions. I plan on doing the work myself.

I would like to meet with you so you could go over my plans with me, answer my questions and make sure I've understood this whole thing. Do you do this kind of thing - is it part of your consulting business? If so, how much do you charge? 

From Washoe Tribe Environmental Specialist, 2/17/07:
I was in attendance at your Radon Lecture at SNC in January. I work for the Washoe Tribe and am currently administering our Tribal Radon Pilot Project Grant. Since Lake Tahoe is part of the Tribe's ancestral lands I think it would be beneficial for us to collaborate our education and outreach efforts. Possible ideas for collaboration:

  • Earth Day booths at various events.
  • Collaborative example mitigation within Tribal Colony
  • Tribal Council tour of your mitigated house  


December 1, 2007

Jeff Miner Awarded the NEHA-NRPP Radon Residential Provider Certificate

The National Environmental Health Association - National Radon Proficiency Program accepted my application for the Radon Residential Mitigation Provider Certificate. This means that I will be listed on the California Department of Public Health Radon web page as a Certified Radon Services Provider for Mitigation in California. This is a rather prestigious designation since currently only 6 radon mitigation providers are certified for all of California. It also allows me act as a consultant for homeowners and builders on radon projects in California. I am also listed on the NEHA-NRPP web page as providing radon services in California.

November 21, 2007

Letter to the Editor printed in Tahoe Daily Tribune

The Tahoe Daily Tribune printed my letter to the editor on November being National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Read letter, Read copy.

November 12, 2007

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month

The Sacramento Bee ran a letter to the editor on lung cancer and that November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Since the Bee has not yet covered the radon story at Tahoe or printed my letter criticizing them for ignoring us, I hope they will publish my letter in response to this letter to the editor on lung cancer. I also wrote a letter to the Tahoe Daily Tribune on National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

November 9, 2007
1, 2007

LTUSD to test 450 classrooms for radon

According to Steve Morales, Facilities Director of Lake Tahoe Unified School District, the District took delivery of the radon test kits this week and has plans to test 450 classrooms for radon next week. This will be the largest commercial test to date in South Lake Tahoe. LTUSD is expected to use the testing process to increase radon awareness in students so they may encourage their parents to send for a $5 test kit and test their homes. View my letter to Steve Morales.

In December the test kits arrived. George Faggella, State Radon Officer (right) came up to Tahoe to help Steve Morales (center) and the maintenance crew (that's Tim hiding behind a test kit!) with the distribution of the 450 test kits and 50 control test kits. Results will be announced after the first of the year.

November 9, 2007

Does California have the highest radon cancer rates in the nation?

According to George Faggella, State Radon Scientist with the Department of Public Health, California may have the highest incidence of radon induced lung cancer of any state in the nation. That is not because California is the highest radon state, actually it is one of the lowest, with only 1% of houses over the EPA action level. It is because of our large population. I have not seen the statistics on this claim, but it's an interesting concept, and if true, could wake up our politicians and our citizens to the risks of radon in Californian.

November 9, 2007

Supervisor Norma Santiago requests a radon ordinance from Environmental Management

According to Judi Harkins, Assistant to Supervisor Norma Santiago, Norma has tasked Environmental Management with drafting a radon ordinance. It will be interesting to see how EM responds and in what time frame. Norma hopes the ordinance will be included with the new fire safe building rules to go into effect January 1, 2008.

November 5, 2007


1358 visitors

"May we see your Radon Plan?"

In light of the radon report to the Board of Supervisors at Lake Tahoe on October 23, by George Faggella, State Radon Scientist, and the response by Gerri Silva of Environmental Management to do "education and public outreach", I have attempted to get Environmental Management to share with the public their plan of action for public outreach. So far I have not received a plan.

Read my letter to Greg Stanton, Deputy Director of Environmental Management, offering my suggestions on a radon action plan and my help to present a radon workshop to the 72 Angora fire victims with permits to build foundations this fall.

Read my request to Norma Santiago and Judi Harkins to encourage Environmental Management to reply to my request.

Read my suggestions for goals and action items for attacking radon in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Environmental Management has yet to accept my offer to do a radon workshop for builders of the 72 Angora fire houses being built this fall and winter.

As we wait for government's wheels to turn and the weeks turn to months, we have to reflect: How sad it is that we may very well loose those 72 homes to radon, by allowing them to be built without RRNC, Radon Resistant New Construction. The reason? El Dorado County has been too slow to act to inform the builders how easy and inexpensive it is to build radon out during new construction. (Note: Once the sub-floor covers the crawl space it is more difficult and expensive to lay out the pipe and radon barrier, but it still can be done.)

November 2, 2007


January 8, 2008

The Sacramento Bee refuses to report on radon or to publish my letters critical of their lack of interest.

11/2/07 I wrote a "letter to the editor" to the Sacramento Bee asking why The Bee has not covered the radon news in South Lake Tahoe as part of their Regional News. They covered the Angora Fire and in the past they have covered the asbestos story in the Sierra foothills, but not radon in South Lake Tahoe. I have written numerous similar letters to various editors and writers of The Bee over the past year. So far the Bee has not run any of the letters or reported on any of the radon news from this area. Not published.

11/5/07 M.S. Enkoji, of the Sacramento Bee, wrote a front page article on rebuilding after the Angora fire on November 5, 2007, but did not mention radon or Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC) techniques. This is my letter in response, asking that Building Radon Out be included in the news about rebuilding after the fire. Not published.

11/6/07 I wrote a letter to the Opinion Editor stating my interest in writing a guest editorial piece on the radon issues in the Tahoe area. I promised to write the piece if the Bee showed the slightest interest in our radon problem. Not published.

11/9/07 I wrote a letter to David Holwerk, Editorial Page Editor, asking why my previous letters and requests have gone unanswered. Is radon not an acceptable topic of conversation at the Sacramento Bee? Not published.

1/8/08 I wrote yet another letter to the editor asking why the Bee continues to ignore our radon story. I cited the 1/8/08 El Dorado County Board Resolution on Radon Action Month and the Radon Awareness Program presented to the Board by Environmental Health that recommends that the building department adopt a radon ordinance. This government action on a serious health threat should be covered by the Bee as regional news.

October 23, 2007

EL Dorado County Board of Supervisors Hear Radon Report from Environmental Management

A special meeting of the Board of Supervisors at Lake Tahoe to view the Angora fire and to hear the radon report. George Faggella from the state Department of Health Radon Office made an excellent presentation on the lung cancer dangers of radon, the high radon in our area with 50% of homes over the EPA action level, and the ease of fixing the problem in new homes. Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC) could be used on the Angora fire homes being rebuilt now. 72 of the 252 houses destroyed will be rebuilt this fall and winter. Now would be the time to install Radon Resistant New Construction methods. But the recommendations stopped short of adopting a radon ordinance, offering only a "...radon education and public outreach program..." I presented a letter to the board voicing my disappointment in their choice of the more passive education program and my support for action on the radon ordinance and training workshop.
Read my letter to the Board.
Read article.
Read copy of article.

I offered my services to give a builders workshop on RRNC, but Environmental Management has not yet agreed to the workshop. Oh well. Others in the audience expressed interest in making changes. Ted Long from the City Council expressed interest in moving forward with a radon ordinance for the City of South Lake Tahoe in January. Sue Novasell of the LTUSD School Board spoke to George Faggella about getting additional test kits for the school district to make available for students to take home for their parents to test their own houses.

October 23, 2007

More Letters to the Editor on Radon

10.18.07 Lisa Dernbach responds to my editorial
10.23.07 I respond to Lisa
10.23.07 Mark Hoefer comments on Zephyr Cove radon and home tests.
View letters.

October 22, 2007

$5 Radon Test Kits from California Radon Office

The California Department of Public Health Radon Office has made radon test kits available to all California residents at a discounted price of $5. Order yours now.

October 22, 2007

1312 visitors to Radon At Tahoe.com

2008 National Radon Poster Contest

The National Safety Council, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is sponsoring the 2008 National Radon Poster Contest for children ages 9-14 to generate interest, enthusiasm, and action about radon and to increase the number of homes tested for radon. To find out more information. click here

Interested students and teachers in LTUSD and Douglas County schools can enter this contest as entire classes or as individuals. Click here for the contest guidelines and brochure.

October 12, 2007

LTUSD agrees to test 450 classrooms and controversy continues over radon at Zephyr Cove Elementary.

Douglas County School District Board of Trustees met in Nevada to address the radon issue at Zephyr Cove Elementary School. Adrian Howe made a radon presentation to the Board and Dirk Roper answered questions on the fans scheduled to be installed in a few weeks. Some parents are still concerned about "safe" radon levels and would like to see the District close Zephyr Cove and keep Kingsbury Middle School open because of the higher radon levels at Zephyr Cove.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District followed Douglas County Schools' lead by announcing that they too will test all class rooms (450 rooms and offices) for radon. Steve Morales made the report to the School Board on Tuesday, 10-9-07 and expects to purchase charcoal test kits at a discount from the State of California Department of Public Health Radon Office. I think the controversy at Douglas County Schools in Nevada is increasing radon awareness everywhere in the Tahoe Basin.

I wrote to the LTUSD Board members to support their decision to test classrooms and to provide them with the report of the 2007 Tahoe Radon Survey which showed that over 50% of the homes in South Lake Tahoe are over the EPA action level. I attended that Board meeting on Tuesday and one of the Board members expressed interest in making test kits available to parents so they can test their homes, which is where students spend more time than in school classrooms.
View article
. View copy

October 9, 2007

EPA 2007 - 2008 Radio and Print PSA's

The EPA has announced a series of radon Public Service Announcements for radio and news media. To view and order the PSA's, click here. I ordered a few sets to give out to our local radio stations and newspapers. To listen to one of the radio spots, click here.

October 3, 2007

Zephyr Cove parents meet on radon

I attended the Zephyr Cove parents meeting Wednesday evening. I was impressed by the way the District met the parent's challenge of keeping their kids out of school unless the radon issue was dealt with. More than just "damage control," though there was certainly some of that, they actually came up with a plan to use HEPA filters in all classrooms to immediately reduce the "radon progeny," the actual radiation that does damage to the lungs, while they are looking into the permits to do standard radon mitigation (since TRPA would have to give permission to exceed the October 15 moratorium on digging). Dirk Roper, of Fallon Heating and Air Conditioning, who is a Sponsor of Radon At Tahoe, was chosen as the Certified Radon tester and mitigator to consult on the project. Adrian Howe was also present and made the radon presentation for the State of Nevada Radon office. It seems to me that beyond radon, the issue of consolidation of schools still has some parents upset, even if the radon issues are dealt with. View article. View copy.

October 2, 2007 I updated the City Council on radon progress
Still using the 5 minute public comment session (because I have never been invited to make a presentation to the council), I addressed the South Lake Tahoe City Council, bringing them up to date on the latest radon news since I last spoke to them three weeks ago. The other purpose of this update was to promote the enacting of a radon ordinance as a better response to the problem than simply issuing a proclamation. View presentation. 
October 2, 2007

The Tahoe Daily Tribune ran my Guest Editorial!

I argue that because radon is a problem in this area, the city and county should respond by enacting a radon ordinance for new construction, especially for the 250 Angora fire victims. View article. View copy.

October 2, 2007

1223 visitors to Radon At Tahoe.com web page. News stories are generating interest.

Zephyr Cove Elementary School radon on front page

Members of the parents' club at Zephyr Cove Elementary School in Nevada threatened to take their children out of school on Monday if school officials fail to provide a plan to reduce radon in the school. There will be a meeting on Wednesday, October 3rd, which I plan to attend. View article. View copy.

25, 2007

Angora Fire Meeting with Assemblyman Ted Gaines
I attended the Angora Fire meeting at Lake Tahoe Community College set up by Assemblyman Ted Gaines, of the 4th Congressional District, which includes El Dorado, Placer and Alpine Counties, all of which are high in radon. I was able to deliver the detailed radon ordinance packet to Adam Willoughby, staff to Mr. Gaines, and I was able to speak to Mr. Gaines about radon in this area. Even though radon is not a problem in California, for the state as a whole, I got the impression that Mr. Gaines and his staff would study the issue as it relates to his district. Once he understands the dangers and the prevalence of radon in the areas he represents, I would hope that he will encourage city and county agencies to deal with radon in new construction, as well as radon in existing structures for residents in his district. Here is his email if you wish to encourage his participation in this process: assemblymember.gaines@assembly.ca.gov.

18, 2007

Tahoe Daily Tribune ran a follow-up to last week's story on radon in Nevada schools. View article. View copy. Last month, Zephyr Cove Elementary School, a few miles from Stateline, Nevada, attempted to mitigate several classrooms with a radon sealant called RadonSeal. The tests came back yesterday unchanged. I have never heard of RadonSeal and no one from Zephyr Cove asked my opinion. But had I been asked, I would have suggested that the EPA recommends specific sub membrane depressurization techniques using fans for slab foundations. At least the Nevada school is aware of radon, is testing and is attempting to correct the problem. Lake Tahoe Unified School District has yet to address radon in the schools on the California side, at least to my knowledge. I did present Dr. Tarwater, Superintendent of LTUSD, with my presentation packet on the radon ordinance, but so far have not received any response.

18, 2007

I spoke to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors at the public comment portion of their meeting. This seems to be the only way I can speak to these government bodies unless they invite me to make a presentation, which hasn't happened yet. My topic was the radon ordinance and I handed out the complete packet, as listed below.

Note: A formal radon presentation is scheduled by Environmental Health Management to a combined meeting of the City Council and the Board of Supervisors at South Lake Tahoe on Tuesday, October 23, 2007.

Just prior to the board meeting I was able to speak to Greg Stanton, Assistant Director of Environmental Health Management, and Larry Lohman, Deputy Director - Building Official with the Building Department, to let them know that I was asking the Board for a radon ordinance. Both seemed interested in pursuing radon awareness but felt my request for a radon ordinance may not be met by the County in time to include the 250 Angora fire homes. Larry informed me that the building department is now attaching a Radon Resistant New Construction information sheet with every building plan approval packet, including those of the Angora fire homes. Thanks to the building department for this important step. We are making progress.

14, 2007
The Tahoe Daily Tribune endorsed radon support for homeowners in an editorial today. The Tribune said city, county and state government agencies "... must be prepared to help citizens remedy radon issues." They also stated that the City Council "...would be well advised to address the issue at its next meeting on Oct. 2." I plan to be at that meeting to bring up the radon ordinance again. It will be up to the City Council if they choose to make radon an agenda item. Public support is building.
Link to story. Read copy.

12, 2007

1169 visitors to Radon at Tahoe.com since inception about 3 years ago.

Tahoe Daily Tribune ran front page headlines and photo of lungs: RADON - It's invisible, odorless and all around us. The story uses much of my presentation and data from the City Council presentation the previous day, but also included interviews with Environmental Health Management official, Ginger Huber and others. Very good reporting by Adam Jensen of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
Link to story
. Read copy.


11, 2007
I spoke to the City Council during the 5 minute Public Comment section on the Radon Ordinance. I handed out the folder containing the presentation documents and explained them. There was no comment because it was not an agenda item. I plan to make more of these 5 minute presentations if the council chooses not to invite me to make a full presentation.
10, 2007
New Jersey, which has 17.5% of its houses over the EPA action level, has a school building radon code in the works. When adopted, it may well become the model code for all schools in the nation. I don't have a copy of it yet but will link to it here when I get it. For now, view New Jersey Assembly Bill No. 4134 which would require testing of most schools every 5 years. It would also require radon testing for all residential properties at time of sale. Since our readings are higher than New Jersey's, we would not be out of line to add this wording to our local building ordinance. Thanks to Anita Kopera, New Jersey State Radon Officer for her help on this.
6, 2007
Zephyr Cove Elementary School is in the news again with high radon readings. Parents are upset that old system was not properly monitored. View Tahoe Daily Tribune article.
For inquiring minds only A History of Radon - 1470 to 1984 by Robert K. Lewis, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Radon Division.
This detailed, yet interesting, history of radon was presented at the 2006 National Radon Meeting.
Winter, Spring, and Summer

September 6, 2007 I have developed a presentation for government agencies to win them over to becoming radon pro-active: I plan on making the rounds next week. The campaign begins!

1. Presentation

2. Sierra Compare spreadsheet

3. Laws allowing ordinances

4. International Residential Code (IRC) Appendix F: Radon Control Methods to use as a model ordinance.

5. Clauses to add to Appendix F to include testing and the addition of a radon fan to make it an active system if the passive system fails the test.

6. Opinion Page editorial to enlist public support for a local radon ordinance

September, 2007 The task now is to distribute the results of the Tahoe Radon Survey to the public and to public agencies. My goal is to get El Dorado Environmental Health to recognize that there is a radon problem up here and to get them to write and adopt a radon building ordinance. I suggest that they use the International Residential Code, Appendix F: Radon Control Methods, as a guide. I also suggest that they add a few additional clauses to require post installation testing of passive systems and require upgrading to an active system if the passive system fails the test.

August, 2007

The first data from the Tahoe Radon Survey was released by George Faggella of the California Department of Health Services. The additional 1700 tests did not do much to change the high radon readings of this region. I compiled the results onto the Sierra Compare Spreadsheet and updated the chart. Results are that for the 25 zip code group of mountain and foothill communities in the Sierra Nevada that I have been tracking, the homes tested went from 796 to 1555 but the percent of homes over the EPA action level went from 37% to 38%. I think we are talking real numbers here when doubling the sample size produces no change in results. This is a very high radon region. The numbers for the City of South Lake Tahoe went from 140 to 528 tests, a 370% increase, yet the results hardly changed: 53% to 52% of homes above the EPA action level. View spreadsheet. View comment.

July 21, 2007 I set up a booth at the Phoenix Sustainable Re-building Expo at our local community college for victims of the Angora Fire to help them rebuild. I focused on using Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC) for the 250 families that will be rebuilding their homes and lives after the Angora Fire. Mostly I spoke to the contractors present to give them an awareness of radon when they bid a job in this area.

June 21, 2007 I spoke to Soroptomists on radon at Lake Tahoe

June 4, 2007 I met with Wesley Nicks, Nevada County Environmental Health Director, to discuss Tahoe Radon Survey and current radon results for Nevada County. Truckee had 22% of homes over the EPA action level with 67 tests. After the Tahoe Radon Survey, 290 additional tests were added bringing the sample size up to 357, but the percent of homes remained about the same, rising to 25%. I agreed to keep him informed about our progress in El Dorado County.

Memorial Day Weekend May 26, 2007 Truckee Green Building Expo I shared a booth with George Faggella, California Department of Health Services, Radon Office, to hand out radon literature and speak to the many green builders about RRNC. Many so called "green" builders do not address radon, though it is listed as 9.1 and 9.2 on the LEED for Homes Project Checklist and is mandatory in EPA Region 1 areas. Unfortunately, EPA Region 1 areas are county specific and do not address regions within a county, such as the Tahoe Basin, which would be a Region 1 but is within El Dorado, Placer and Nevada counties which are not overall Region 1. Catch 22. There is much potential for green builders to be good supporters of Radon Resistant New Construction once they understand the issues, or once it gets presented to them in the form of a building ordinance.

May 15, 2007 I spoke to Dr. Richard Burton, MD, Health Officer and Director for Placer County about the Tahoe Radon Survey and implications for Tahoe City which currently has 40% of homes above the EPA action level. Since then with the additional data, (from 10 to 67 tests) the levels for Tahoe city have come down to 22%, still high. I agreed to keep him informed about our progress in El Dorado County.

April 27, 2007 Spoke to El Dorado County Board of Supervisors on radon in the Sierra Nevada during the public input session. 5 minutes. Warned about preparing for the announcement of the Tahoe Radon Survey in August. Environmental Health scheduled George Faggella from State Public Health Radon Office to come up and talk to agencies. Due to the Angora Fire, that meeting happened in late August. Ginger Huber of El Dorado County Environmental Health started stocking the blue Build Radon Out book.

April 20, 2007 Spoke during 5 minute public session to South Lake Tahoe City Council. Warned that Tahoe Radon Survey was on the way and we should prepare for the impact. Ron Ticknor of the Building Department showed some interest and began handing out California Radon brochures. City Council took a wait and see stance.

February 7, 2007 Spoke to Rotary on radon and the Newborn Radon Program. Buck Barkley agreed to host the program at Barton Memorial Hospital. Since then the contract for free test kits ran out so we are waiting for Calif. DHS to get a new contract.


EPA PSA's on Radon

The EPA has come out with some life saving Public Service Announcements on radon. To view and download the actual PSA's for Newspapers, TV and Radio spots go to:




TV Spot - 60 seconds - 30 seconds - 20 seconds

In Spanish - 60 seconds - 30 seconds

Radio Spot - 60 seconds - 30 seconds

In Spanish - 60 seconds - 30 seconds

Bravo! The EPA is telling it like it is,
and with style!

Now we need to get the media to run these PSA's. Anyone want to help? Write a letter to the editor or call you favorite radio station and request they run these free PSA's.


Lake Tahoe Newborn Radon Program
Fashioned after the successful Pennsylvania Newborn Radon Program (including logo and even color!), the Lake Tahoe Newborn Radon Program now provides free radon test kit flyers for all parents of newborn babies at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe. The green cover surrounds the Radon in California flyer provided by the California Department of Health Services Radon Program. The text encourages new parents to provide a clean and healthy environment for their new child by testing their house for radon. Free test kits are provided through the state DHS Radon Program. It is hoped that this first (to our knowledge) radon outreach to new parents in California will be taken over and produced by the State Radon Program as grant funds are made available.

View grant request.

View Tahoe Newborn Radon Page

January 18, 2007

UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center Lecture Series

I spoke on Radon in the Sierra Nevada to about 30 members of the scientific community and general public. I used the presentation developed by George Faggella of the California DHS Radon Program, with added slides relating to our work in the Sierra Nevada.The goal was to educate about the dangers and the prevalence of radon in the Sierra Nevada. The current Tahoe Radon Survey and the Zip Code Study were discussed. The audience asked many pointed and interesting questions showing they grasped the issue.
Read press release for lecture

Read second press release on radon risks

Read Tahoe Bonanza article on lecture

January 15, 2007

Tahoe Daily Tribune Article on Radon

View article

View my letter to the editor in response

January 2007

January is National Radon Action Month

The EPA and the US Surgeon General designate January as National Radon Action Month. Click on their logo to view the official web page. At Tahoe, we are working on a few projects to inform the public about radon and to encourage homeowners and renters to test for radon.

  • January 18 I will be speaking about radon in the Sierra Nevada at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center in Incline Village with George Faggella of the California DHS Radon Program - read the press release.
  • DHS Radon Program is conducting the Tahoe Radon Survey (see above)
  • Tahoe Daily Tribune will be running articles and news stories on radon in South Lake Tahoe
  • We hope to be holding discussions with interested members of the real estate community regarding radon in real estate transactions
  • We will continue to publicize the study that shows up to 40% of homes in many Sierra Nevada communities have radon levels above the EPA Action Level of 4 pCi/L (see above)
  • Letters to the editor regarding the above activities
  • If you have suggestions for other public awareness projects, please contact us.
December 2006

Zip Code Test Results

A study of radon tests by zip codes in 14 Sierra Nevada communities suggest that many mountain homes are over the EPA "Action Level" of 4 pCi/L. View the test data base or the analysis Fact Sheet.

December 12, 2006

Tahoe Radon Survey

7,700 letters sent to El Dorado, Placer, and Nevada County residents in the Lake Tahoe Basin inviting participation in a radon survey of the area around Lake Tahoe. California Department of Health Services (DHS) and California Geological Survey are conducting this first comprehensive study of this region of the Sierra Nevada.

To view a larger copy, click the letter.

November 1 2006

Radon Presentation to T.E.A.S (Tahoe Engineers, Architects and Surveyors) with California Radon Specialist George Faggella from California DHS. This presentation is a significant milestone for a number of reasons: It the first presentation I have given to a group. It is the first time I have collaborate with George Faggella who runs the Radon Program for the California Department of Health Services. The City of South Lake Tahoe Building Department sent their Building Official, Ron Ticknor. The County of El Dorado Building Department sent their Deputy Director, Larry Lohman from Placerville as well as Bob Green, Branch Manager from Tahoe. The El Dorado County Environmental Management Department sent Ginger Huber, the Tahoe Division Manager as well as her supervisor from Placerville. Having these government officials attend was at least as important as the T.E.A.S. architects and designers who attended for spreading the word about radon at Tahoe. View press releases

June 13, 2006

View pictures from the class and the demonstration field training including the class mitigation project.

May 4, 2006

Radon Certification Classes in Reno,
June 5 - 8, 2006
with scholarships available!

Local Training June 5 - 8, 2006

Adrian Howe, from the Radiological Health Section of the Department of Human Resources recently announced that the CERTI training and testing, normally held in Colorado, will be given at the Peppermill Hotel in Reno from Monday June 5 – Thursday June 8, 2006. Anyone, but especially contractors in California and Nevada, who plan on doing radon mitigation in California or Nevada, should give this course a hard look. It is a home study course with written materials and DVDs and then a 4 day hands-on training in Reno with the NEAH-NRPP test included on the last day of class.

13 Free Scholarships Offered

Adrian Howe is offering 13 scholarships for those who live in Nevada or "an adjacent area" and who plan on doing radon mitigation work in Nevada or "an adjacent area." I would think that South Lake Tahoe, CA would qualify as "an adjacent area."

Register Early to complete the home study portion prior to the class in June. For more information and to register, go to the class web site at:


April 12, 2006

Radon makes front page
of the Tahoe Daily Tribune

Click on image to read full article

April 1, 2006

Library Display Case for April on Radon

El Dorado County Library gave Radon at Tahoe the use of their 12 foot display case for the month of April to make an informational display on radon gas in the Lake Tahoe Basin. We used many of the displays and poster boards developed for the Green Building Expo, along with other materials photos and actual radon testing devices loaned to us by George Faggella of the California Radon Office, and Douglas Kladder, of CERTI.

The display brought many positive comments as well as a nice article on the cover of the Tahoe Daily Tribune on April 12, 2006. Here is an excerpt from one of the letters we received:

"Hi Jeff,
I just wanted to thank you for an amazing display at the library and an equally impressive website. I just happened upon the display yesterday on one of my infrequent trips to the library. Your explanations and resources have given me the motivation to take action on an item that has been on my "to do" list for years. I plan to order the Pro Series 3 and do extensive testing on both my residential property and my rental properties. I live on Chimney Rock Road on middle Kingsbury and have rental properties on Tina Court at the top of Kingsbury. I look forward to sharing results, fixing any problems and being part of the solution for this problem in our area. Again, thanks for your efforts. Many of us will surely benefit from your knowledge..."

Thanks to the Sally Neitling, Library Branch Supervisor, and the entire library staff, for allowing us to use their facilities to educate the public on radon in the Tahoe Basin.

March 23, 2006

Radon Table at Green Building Expo

Radon at Tahoe was invited to participate in the Green Building Expo at Lake Tahoe Community College. We set up a table, handed out literature, answered questions and met a lot of local folks interested in building healthy homes with sustainable materials. Radon testing should definitely be a part of a healthy home at Tahoe. This was a good first exposure for Radon at Tahoe to the community. If you would like a copy of the Fact Sheets we gave out at the expo, go to the bottom of the Solution Section.

March 21, 2006

El Dorado County recognizes radon
as a health problem

Radon at Tahoe is happy to announce that, after a year of correspondence and "nagging," El Dorado County Environmental Management finally agreed to help spread the word on Radon Resistant New Construction through the County Building Department. Hopefully they will start by making EPA radon materials available to permit applicants, but will eventually train their inspectors in EPA radon protocols and will enforce EPA building code recommendations. But it is definitely a start.

The letter read, in part:

... I have contacted the State Health Department and they are planning to do a radon survey and mapping program in El Dorado County next year. It will be focused in the South Lake Tahoe area and will include free test kits for local participation. The results will be assessed and a risk map will be created for our area. Our department will be working closely with the State in this effort. Until this survey is completed and we have some valid data, I would recommend that we do make available to the public the radon resistant construction technique information for new construction at the Tahoe office of the Building Department. I will coordinate this with them. I will keep you updated as to our progress and status. Thanks for your continuing effort and concern.

Virginia Huber, REHS
Tahoe Division Manager
El Dorado County Environmental Management
3368 Lake Tahoe Blvd., Suite 303
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
(530) 573-3451

February 25, 2005

Radon curiously missing
from our county public health report

The Environmental Management Department of El Dorado County issues a "Community Update" report that neglected to mention radon as an environmental public health issue. To view the report, go to http://www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/emd/

To view my incensed letter to the editor in response to this omission, click here


January 13, 2005

Surgeon General Releases Radon
National Health Advisory

U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona warned the American public about the risks of breathing indoor radon by issuing a national health advisory today. The advisory is meant to urge Americans to prevent this silent radioactive gas from seeping into their homes and building up to dangerous levels. Dr. Carmona issued the advisory during a two-day Surgeon General's Workshop on Healthy Indoor Environment.

"Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the county," Dr. Carmona said. "It's important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well-established venting techniques." (read more)

January 1, 2005 January is declared by EPA as
National Radon Action Month
(read more).
December 21, 2004

20,000 radon related deaths each year in Europe

Study: Radon in Homes Causing Lung Cancer
Radon that collects naturally in people's homes is causing about 9 percent of the lung cancer deaths across Europe, according to new research reported in the British Medical Journal.

Of the 20,000 radon-related deaths in Europe each year, smokers are most at risk, a journal statement said, citing the study results. A person's risk increased proportionally to how much of the gas he or she was exposed to, the British researchers at the University of Oxford found.

Radioactive radon gas exists naturally in the earth's surface and tends to collect indoors. Most of the gas is exhaled immediately, but radioactive particles can collect in the lungs, increasing a person's risk of lung cancer, the journal statement said.

The researchers examined 7,148 cases of lung cancer across Europe, then measured radon levels in the victims' homes as well as their smoking histories.

The authors said radon risks can be reduced by installation of underground venting systems in existing homes, and radon-proof barriers in new construction.
Last Updated: Dec-21-2004

Copyright © 2004 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

December 14, 1984 The Most Radioactive House in America

Stanley Watras discovers that radiation in his house is setting off radiation alarms at the nuclear power plant where he works. Later named "the most radioactive house in America", this house was taken on by Stanley's employer, Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) and the EPA as a project to learn about cleaning up a radon contaminated house. At a cost of $32,000, the radon was eventually brought down to acceptable levels and the Watras family moved back in. The EPA estimated that living in the house prior to mitigation was about the same as smoking 280 packs of cigarettes a day. (Radon, The Invisible Threat, by Michael Lafavore, p13).
1900 Radon gas discovered
by German physicist Friedrich Ernst Dorn
1789 Uranium discovered
For inquiring minds only

A History of Radon - 1470 to 1984 by Robert K. Lewis, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Radon Division
Presented at the 2006 National Radon Meeting