Speed Reads

one thing we can agree on

Trump's plan to eliminate the EPA's radon program might be good science

President Trump has declared war on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), vowing to eliminate it "in almost every form" and leave just "little tidbits" intact. In practice, that translates to reducing the agency's budget by a third, including nixing programs pertaining to residential risk from radon gas accumulation.

While many of Trump's proposed EPA cuts are controversial, it turns out this one actually has significant backing within the scientific community. The reason, as Wired explains, is the EPA's standard for indoor radon exposure (4 picocuries per liter of air) is based on fuzzy science:

That number, 4 picocuries, is a funny one. Because here's the thing: The scientific model used to come up with that limit says there's no acceptable level of radon exposure. None. It's called the linear no-threshold model, and it's used to estimate risk for low doses of carcinogenic materials. See, it's not hugely controversial to link lung cancer to high radon levels, like those found in a mineshaft. But it's impossible to directly establish a link between low levels of radon and cancer. [...]

In fact, the Health Physics Society (a large scientific organization for radiation safety specialists) has officially stated that radon produces no statistically measurable health effects until levels reach about 27 billion picocuries. Even the EPA itself, in its 2003 assessment of household radon risk, seemed to agree ... [Wired]

The gap between 27 billion picocuries and 4 picocuries is an expensive one: While the EPA does not have regulations forcing homeowners to take action to reduce radon levels, it does encourage testing and home improvement, and these guidelines inform state- and municipal-level radon regulations.

Worse yet, there's evidence low-dose radiation provided by radon could lower cancer risk, which would mean "the EPA's guidance levels aren't preventing cancer — they're causing it." Read the rest of Wired's report here.