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Andersen addresses radon concerns during Radon Action Month

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Carissa Morgan
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
As reported in May 2007 levels of radon above Air Force standards have been identified in several base housing units and efforts are underway to reduce them to acceptable amounts. 

According to Maj. Dennis O'Sullivan, 36th Medical Group Aerospace Medicine Flight Commander and Senior Bioenvironmental Engineer, the health effects of radon exposure are well known. 

"After very long exposures (20 years or more) a statistical increase in lung cancer risk is noted," said Major O'Sullivan. "There is no 'safe' radon level and the risk is many times greater in smokers than non-smokers." 

Radon is a radioactive gas formed during the decay of uranium and radium naturally occurring in rocks and soil. 

"You cannot see, smell or taste it. It is present throughout the world, though some areas have higher levels due to geology," said Major O'Sullivan. 

Levels of radon can be different in each home. Fissures or cracks in the ground may carry radon to one house in greater amounts than another across the street.  Exposure to very high levels of radon may decrease the amount of time before statistical increase in risk occurs.  However, the health effects of exposed populations may differ.

Current measurements show radon is present at a wide range of levels, from below to slightly above the U.S. national average. 

"All homes have some amount; however, none on Andersen represent an immediate health risk," said Major O'Sullivan.  "Radon is not a short-term threat to Andersen.  Over exposure to the sun causes a much greater increase in long-term cancer risk than radon." 

Any amount of radiation is harmful but the risk to children from radon is small compared other sources, such as the sun.  The radon issue was originally discussed at Andersen's May 2007 Town Hall meeting and follow-on meeting in August 2007. 

Col. Mark Talley, 36th Mission Support Group commander, said several actions have taken place since radon was first identified in base housing. 

In an effort to reduce the levels, civil engineers visited houses identified with high levels of radon and increased air flow by opening a vent on the air conditioner.  A side effect of opening the window is increased moisture inside the house, so some families may wish to buy a dehumidifier to counter the effect. 

To date, short and long-term radon test kits have been placed in the 41 units that tested high for radon. The short-term monitors were removed after 90 days and sent off island for reading. 

According to Josephine Manibusan, chief of the housing flight, the results of those 41 radon monitors will be known within the next two months. The long-term (12 month) monitors will be collected in August of this year. 

Andersen is ensuring that the radon levels are tested to ensure compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines. 

"Radon monitors are being placed in the remaining units through a project that began Jan. 7," said Ms. Manibusan. "Monitors will be placed in 25 units daily until completed. The monitors will remain in units for 20 weeks and will then be collected for testing." 

Colonel Talley stated "That as soon as any test results are received and interpreted, all affected housing residents will be notified and a plan of action will be determined for the home based on the reported radon levels." 

For more information or to report suspected high levels of radon call Housing Customer Service at 366-2127.