False Alarm?

Dire warnings about radon may be exaggerated

For years the Environmental Protection Agency has urged Americans to check their homes for radon contamination. Seeping into basements from underlying rocks and soil, the colorless, odorless radioactive gas raises the risk of lung cancer. The EPA maintains that a household level of four picocuries of radiation per liter of air is enough to produce cancer in 13 to 50 of every 1,000 people who breathe it regularly. The agency estimates that at least 8 million homes exceed this level, warranting such measures as sealing foundation cracks.

But a growing number of scientists contend that radon's dangers are overstated. They point...

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