United States
Environmental Protection
       Office of
       Public Affairs (A-107)
       Washington. DC 20460
Volume 12
Number 6
August 1986
    pointing a Mystery

                                                                           Top: The home of Stanley Wutrus and
                                                                           his family in Boyertown, PA. Discovery
                                                                           of high radon levels in this home has
                                                                           activated a national examination of the
                                                                           radon  problem. Bottom: Mr. and Mrs.
                                                                           Stanley Wutras attend a press
                                                                           conference in Pottstoivn, PA, in April
                                                                           1985. Philadelphia Electric Co. and the
                                                                           Pennsylvania Department of
                                                                           Environmental  Resources announced at
                                                                           the conference  that they would
                                                                           cooperate to  radon-proof the Watras
Radon:   Pinpointing  a  Mystery
 All pollution isn't man-made.
•* *• EPA's experience with the
colorless, odorless gas, radon,
demonstrates that fact. This
issue of fi'PA Journal includes
articles on Hie radon
  The magazine leads off its
report with a brief
explanation of the radon
problem. The Agency's
Deputy Administrator, A.
James Barnes, discusses
strategies to deal with this
unusual, nonregulatory
challenge. The specifics of
EPA's Radon Action Program
are spelled out by Richard ].
Guimond, director of the
Agency's efforts to deal with
  Pennsylvania's 18-month
battle against a radon threat
is chronicled by Nicholas
DeBenedictis, Secretary of
the state's Department of
Environmental Resources.
The story of how one
television series focused
attention on the radon
problem is related by Roberta
Baskin, a reporter for
WJLA-TV in Washington, DC.
  The personal experience of
an EPA Region 3 official
working directly with people
who have high radon levels
in their homes is described.
Excerpts from EPA guidance
to homeowners about radon
are featured.
  In a related  story,
Congresswoman Claudine
Schneider (R-RI) argues that
indoor air pollution is
putting an increasing burden
on the modern home.
  Other stories discuss EPA's
role in answering questions
that emerged following the
accident at the Chernobyl
nuclear power plant, and
asbestos in the home.
  The issue concludes with
two features—Update and
Appointments/Awards, a

                                United States
                                Environmental Protection
                               Office of
                               Public Affairs (A-107)
                               Washington  DC 20460
                               Volume 12
                               Number 6
                               August 1986
                           S-EPA  JOURNAL
                               Lee M. Thomas, Administrator
                               Jennifer Joy Wilson, Assistant Administrator for External Affairs
                               Linda Wilson Reed,  Director, Office of Public Affairs

                               John Heritage, Editor
                               Susan Tejada, Associate Editor
                               Jack  Lewis, Assistant Editor
                               Margherita Pryor, Contributing Editor
EPA is charged by Congress to pro-
tect the nation's land, air, and
water systems. Under a mandate of
national environmental laws, the
agency strives to formulate and im-
plement actions which lead to a
compatible balance between hu-
man activities and the ability of
natural  systems to support and
nurture life.
  The EPA Journal is published by
the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency. The Administrator of EPA
has determined that the publica-
tion of this periodical is necessary
in the transaction of the public
business required by law of this
agency. Use of funds for printing
this periodical has been approved
by the Director of the Office of
Management and Budget. Views
expressed by authors do not neces-
sarily reflect EPA policy. Contribu-
tions and  inquiries should be  ad-
dressed to the Editor (A-107),
Waterside Mall, 401 M St., S.W.,
Washington, DC 20460. No permis-
sion necessary to reproduce con-
tents except copyrighted photos
and other materials.
The Radon Problem: An
Overview  2

A Nonregulatory
by A. James Barnes   3

Indoor Radon:
The Federal Approach
by Richard J. Guimond  5

Manning the Radon Front
in Pennsylvania
by Nicholas DeBenedictis   (i
Making Sense of Radon
for the News
by Roberta Baskin  II

Beginning with
a Phone Call
by Michael J. Chern  It)

Guidance for Dealing
with Radon  12

The Indoor
Pollution Burden
by Claudine Schneider  14
Answering Questions
About Chernobyl
by Roy Popkin  1(5

Advice on Asbestos
in the Home
by Dave Ryan  21

Update   23

Appointments/Awards   24
Front Cover; Homes on an
American landscape. Discovery of
high radon levels in some homes
has been a surprise. Pholo by Skip
Brown for Folio. Inc.
Design Credits:
Robert Flanagan;
Ron Farrah.
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The  Radon  Problem:
An  Overview
   EPA has traditionally been concerned
   with man-made pollutants—smog,
toxic: chemicals, misapplied pesticides,
contaminated water, and abandoned
hazardous waste dumps. Now it seems
we have still another problem to worry
about, namely, a colorless, odorless,
completely imperceptible gas, radon,
generated from  the natural radioactive
decay of radium. Radium can be found
in ordinary topsoil all around  the
country, hut, like uranium, its parent
element, it also concentrates in granite
and black shale.
  When radon gas is released it
percolates up through the earth into the
atmosphere, where it is thought to
dissipate innocuously. However, it can
also find its way into and concentrate in
dwelling places through cracks in
foundations, wells, drainpipes, and
cinderblock walls. As radon decays,
radioactive byproducts are formed and
attach themselves electrostatically to
dust particles in the air. These particles
emit ioni/ing energy that can damage
lung tissue and produce cancer. The
problem is often less severe in schools
and commercial buildings, which are
usually designed for high rates of
exchange between inside and outside
  No one knows exactly how many
homes in America may have seriously
elevated levels of indoor radon. The
Argonne National Laboratory thinks
5-10 percent of homes are contaminated.
EPA believes that from one to  five
million private  residences may be
impacted. The reason for the wide
variance in estimates is that the danger
cannot simply be calculated by looking
for uranium or radium-bearing rocks
and then assuming that everyone  living
on the surface above them is at risk. As
we have seen in eastern Pennsylvania,
one house in a given neighborhood may
be heavily contaminated because it sits
on porous soil,  while another two doors
away may lie well within the acceptable
range of risk for an entire lifetime of
exposure because it rests on a bed of
clay. But many other variables may also
account for  these differences. Ironically,
energy  conservation attempts, such as
caulking and insulating, may contribute
somewhat to the problem by slowing air
exchange rates.
   It is  not clear as yet how many
additional cases of cancer may be
attributed to radon. Estimates have run
from 5,000 per year to as high as 30,000.
Most experts say that radon is a leading
or even the  leading cause of lung cancer
among  nonsmokers. EPA plans to
conduct a survey to determine the true
extent of the risk. If we can predict
which locations are at greatest hazard,
then the public can be warned away
from those sites, or houses can be built
with air control systems to ensure that
radon does  not accumulate to
intolerable levels. Such measures
should be inexpensive if incorporated
into a home while it is under
construction, but retroactive measures
can be costly.
  This issue of the Journal describes the
federal role in addressing the radon
challenge, includes an article from a
state with radon problems, reports on a
media experience in making the radon
problem understandable to the public,
features an expert's front line
experience in dealing with radon, and
provides tips to homeowners to help
them  understand radon and what they
can do about it.
  EPA is  working vigorously to put an
effective radon program  in place. Such a
program cannot be created overnight,
but with an appropriate  investment of
time and  management effort, the Agency
expects to make substantial progress
over the coming months. Q
             X-ray showing
       diseased tissue due to
          cancer of the lung.
           Next to smoking,
             radon exposure
          may be  one of the
        leading contributors
             to lung cancer
                 in the U.S.
                                                                 American Cancel Society
                                                                                                     EPA JOURNAL

A  Nonregulatory
 by A. James Barnes
                                                                             A neiv home under construction.
                                                                             Building techniques now living
                                                                             developed may minimize indoor radon
                                                                             levels in the future.
     When Stanley Watras of Boyertown,
     PA, tripped the radiation monitor
going into work at a nuclear power
plant in 1984, he did more than set off
lights and horns there. He also triggered
alarm within the scientific and
regulatory community.
  Investigators discovered that Watras'
home was being contaminated by
radioactivity from natural, radon-bearing
rock formations known as the Reading
Prong. The radon levels wrere so high
that Watras was clearly safer at work in
a nuclear power plant than  at home
asleep in his own bed.
  Radon is not a new problem. Early
studies showed that radon could cause
lung cancer and other health problems
in miners, and it was also known that
private homes could be contaminated in
certain instances. For example, the use
of byproducts from Western uranium
and phosphate mining in construction
often resulted in radon contamination in
private houses.
  But until Watras' experience, we had
no idea that radon posed  a threat to the
population at large. Further studies now
show that radon contamination may be
a problem in many parts of  the country.
  Health  experts estimate that radon
could contribute to or cause anywhere
from 5,000 to 20,000 cases of lung
cancer every year. That's  around 16
percent of all known lung cancers  in the
United States. After smoking, in fact,
radon exposure may be one of the
leading contributors to lung cancer.
Clearly, indoor radon has the potential
for being an enormous environmental
health problem, and one that would
require a  unique approach.
  Generally, EPA addresses new
environmental problems either by
issuing regulations or by helping states
meet regulatory responsibilities.  The
indoor radon problem, however, does
not lend itself to a regulatory approach.

(Barnes is the Deputy Administrator of
                                        First of all, radon is a naturally
                                      occurring substance. It unmistakably
                                      poses a risk, but a blameless risk. There
                                      is no one at whom we can point an
                                      accusatory finger and say, "You did
                                      this, now you fix it."
                                        Another feature inhibiting a
                                      regulatory approach is the diversity of
                                      the radon problem. Radon levels vary
                                      from region to region, even from home
                                      to home. They depend on a building's
                                      location, style of construction, and
                                      air-tightness, as  well as the amount of
                                      radon beneath it, and numerous other
                                      factors. The Watras family, for example,
                                      was exposed to  radiation levels equal to
                                      about 200,000 chest X-rays a year, while
                                      radon levels in the house right next
                                      door were normal. By contrast, outdoor
                                      air  pollution is shared evenly by
                                      everyone in a particular area.
                                        The situation poses an exceptional
                                      public health  issue. We now know that
                                      radon represents one of the more
                                      serious health threats facing the
American public today. And we are
convinced that EPA has a role to
play—but we don't see it as a regulatory
one. Instead, we've worked out a unique
partnership with the state and local
governments—unique in the  sense that
we are not merely  cooperating,
consulting, or even collaborating with
the other governments. Rather, we are
working in a trim partnership with
them, where they perform certain
functions and we perform others. We
have several levels of government
working hand in hand to jointly address
a problem.
  We believe EPA's knowledge and
specialized abilities can complement
local efforts. For instance, EPA has
provided survey equipment and
personnel to help take measurements in
the Reading Prong  area. But the states
retain actual responsibility for the
surveys and for follow-up. We are also
training state and federal personnel to
diagnose and recommend remedies. But,
 AUGUST 1986

other than for experimental mitigation
projects, the federal government will not
do the actual work.
  Several other agencies, including the
Department of  Energy, the Centers for
Disease Control, the U.S. Geological
Survey, and  the Department of Housing
and Urban Development, have
capabilities and expertise to contribute,
too. We are working closely with them
to build a comprehensive federal
  Rut while EPA will help in assessing
radon hazards, demonstrating remedial
techniques, and coordinating abatement
efforts, perhaps our most important
challenge is  appropriately
communicating radon risks and what
can be done about them.
  Our overall goal is to alleviate the
potential throat that radon poses to
millions of Americans. Since we're
taking a nonregulatory approach to that
goal, we must depend on the public to
act on its own  behalf. But first it needs
information. The: public has to know
there is a threat, how large that threat
may be, and how that threat can be
  We at the  Environmental Protection
Agency must help communicate that
information  as  accurately, honestly, and
understandably as possible. We must let
people know what risk radon poses  to
them and what they can do about it.
Then we must  leave the decision up to
  It's a fine line we have to tread. On
one hand, we don't want to alarm
people unduly or produce stress and
anxiety that  could in  itself be damaging
to their health. On the other hand, we
do betieve radon is a significant hazard
to public health.
  If we do our  job well, people will
have enough information to take the
vital first step of having their homes
tested, where there's reason to suspect
radon problems. Our information will
also help them judge the risks and
decide for themselves what they will do
to lessen those risks. We're not going to
pay for the work, but we will help
inform people what options they have.
   In a sense, our entire radon strategy
is a means toward this end.
   We're working on ways of
standardizing measurement procedures
and of providing quality assurance
programs, so that we all speak the
same language, so a  reading  taken  in
New Jersey means the same thing in
California. We're working on surveys
We must let people know what
risk radon poses to them and
what they can do about it.
and epidemiological studies to tell us
what and how much of a hazard radon
actually poses to human health. And
our geological studies help us pinpoint
the high-risk areas of the country.
  But we don't feel it's enough to just
point out a danger; we want to offer
some solutions. We want to let people
know that there are steps they can take
to lessen indoor radon concentrations
and what those steps are. That's where
the second aspect of our approach
comes in. We are  conducting a program
in Boyertown, PA, Clinton, NJ, and
other areas to demonstrate ways of
reducing radon levels in houses. The
experience we gain from  this program
can be applied  throughout the country.
We are also working with the states  and
the housing industry to develop
techniques of new home construction
that might minimize radon levels in the
  Finally, we are  pursuing what we  call
"Capabilities Development." As the
name implies, this is an effort to help
local governments and industry groups
develop the expertise to handle the
problem themselves.
  Together with some of our regional
offices  and the states, we are designing
a program to train federal and state
employees to diagnose radon problems
and give homeowners proper
information on remedial actions. We're
also working with those who
manufacture radon measurement
devices, urging them to enter the
residential market, and with those who
make heat exchangers and air cleaners
to encourage them to test their products
properly, so that homeowners can select
devices that are effective in reducing
health  risks.
  In  a nutshell, we are all learning what
we can about radon and are jointly
taking steps to make sure that
knowledge is presented to the public.
We'll do that with brochures,  public
service announcements on radio and
TV, and with a special videotape  made
available for community groups and
other interested parties.
  We are confident that the
extraordinary state/federal partnership
we've formed will enable us to
effectively communicate the danger of
indoor radon to the public.  We're
also confident that, armed with
accurate, timely, and appropriate
information, people will make informed
decisions. Q
                                                                                                         EPA JOURNAL

Indoor  Radon:
The  Federal  Approach
by Richard J. Guimond
  In September 1985, EPA Administrator
   Lee M. Thomas created a Radon
Action Program to assist the states in
dealing with radon problems in homes.
Activities included in the EPA program
can be grouped into four general
Problem Assessment: EPA plans to
conduct a national survey to evaluate
the distribution of indoor radon levels
across the country. In addition, EPA
will provide technical assistance to
states for surveys designed to identify
specific areas that have a potential for
significantly elevated levels of radon. To
ensure that radon measurements are
comparable and accurate, EPA has
issued standardized measurement
protocols and established a
measurement proficiency program open
to both governmental and private
Mitigation and Prevention: In this area,
EPA is addressing the need for
technology  that is effective and
inexpensive. The program includes
demonstrations and evaluations of
techniques  to reduce radon levels in
existing homes and identification and
evaluation of ways to prevent radon
problems from occurring in new homes,

Capability Development: The Radon
Action Program  includes efforts to help
states and the private sector develop the
technical capabilities needed: number
one, to assess radon  problems in homes
and, number two, to help people reduce
high radon  levels.
Public Information: EPA is developing
materials which provide information
and guidance for citizens: to help them
understand how to have measurements
made, how  to evaluate the health risks
associated with high radon levels, and
how to reduce those  levels.
  Indoor radon is too broad an issue to

(Guimond is the director of EPA's effort
to help deal with radon.)

be addressed by any one agency. Many
state and federal agencies are involved,
as is a variety of private sector
organizations. EPA recognizes that a
coordinated approach to the problem
must be taken and has designed the
Radon Action Program as a partnership
among its regional offices, the states,
and the private sector, as  well as other
federal  agencies.
  Within the federal government, a
number of agencies are participating in
joint activities to address  radon
problems from a variety of perspectives.
The primary vehicle to coordinate
research efforts among these agencies is
the Committee on Indoor  Air Quality's
Radon Work Group. The members

To prevent radon <;ntry. pip<- ((it top of
picture) (fruivs radon-containing soil »»s
from wall and vents it outdoor* liv
means of an outside fan.  Sealing up
cracks hi ivuJJ and top am of blocks
enables fan to draw .suction.  The \\ork
in this Boyertown, PA. huxeine.n! ua.s
done as part of an EPA pro»mtn to
demonstrate and evaluate radon
reduction techniques,
include representatives from the
Department of Energy, the Department
of Housing and Urban Development, the
Centers for Disease Control, the U.S.
Geological Survey, the Tennessee Valley
Authority, the National Institutes of
Health, and the National Bureau of
Standards. Participants plan and
develop projects, prepare and review
public information documents, and are
developing a joint research strategy.
  Another group which contributes to
the federal effort on indoor radon is the
Committee for Inter-agency Radiation
Research  and Policy Coordination.
Through this committee, federal
agencies are able to maintain a dialogue
on overall research needs and
long-range policy for radon-related
  Only through a cooperative effort
involving many agencies working
together can  the problem  of indoor
radon be addressed successfully. EPA's
Radon Action Program, as well as the
activities  of other federal  agencies, helps
to ensure that the radon problem is
dealt with in the most thorough and
effective way possible,  a

Manning  the  Radon  Front
in  Pennsylvania
by Nicholas DeBenedictis
   Pennsylvania has just taken what is a
   giant step for the Commonwealth,
but a small step for a nation just
becoming aware of the danger of indoor
radon gas.
  After testing over 22,000 homes in the
last 18 months for radon and finding
nearly 60 percent with high levels, the
Commonwealth is now providing $3
million in low-interest loans to help
owners rid  their homes of natural
radioactive) radon. The loan program
may be just the first  hurdle cleared in
what is assuredly a long commitment to
test and help all Pennsylvanians
threatened by the risk of lung cancer
from radon, but it is also the
culmination of 18 months of discovery,
excitement, expansion, exhaustion, and,
finally, achievement in fighting a very
new and hard-to-believe threat.
  Radon is a colorless, odorless,
tasteless gas that has been produced
from the radioactive decay of trace
amounts of uranium since time began.
Normally, the radioactive gas dissipates
into the atmosphere, where its more
dangerous decay products, so-called
radon daughters,  pose no threat.
  In today's well-weathemed homes,
however, that normal process is
interrupted: radon gets in, but it  doesn't
get  out. The gas and its short-lived
decay products build up, creating a
greater risk of lung cancer the longer the
  The lack of data on natural indoor
radon and its health consequences has
led  most experts to rely on standards,
known as working levels (WL), set for
uranium miners. But these standards,
which measure the level of activity of
radon daughters in a liter  of air,  are very-
hard to explain to people whose homes
are  being endangered by a colorless,
odorless, tasteless gas.
  How much danger it poses is not yet
known, but we in Pennsylvania have by
necessity taken 0.02 WL as our action
fPcHrnedicti.s- is Srcrcliny ol tin:
Pennsylvania Di-jxirfnronl of
/•.'iivironmcnldi Resources.)
guideline. 1 say by necessity because we
did not choose 0.02 WL after studied
consideration, but under an urgent need
to take action.
  Let me explain. Eighteen months ago,
in December 1984, an engineer working
on a nuclear power plant under
construction near Philadelphia kept
setting off portal  monitors. He wasn't
contaminated by  anything at the
uncompleted plant, so tests were taken
of his home in nearby Berks County.
  The result was unheard of—the
engineer's home was 13.5 WL, 675
times our soon-to-be-developed action
guideline. The week after New Year's, I
had to advise Stanley Watras and his
wife and two small children to leave
their home immediately, minus even
their newly opened Christmas presents,
which were too contaminated to take
with them.
  They moved to a motel, and the
Department of Environmental Resources
moved into the neighborhood. The level
of the Watras home was too high to be
an anomaly, so we started testing
neighbors' homes. Some had radon
problems; others  had none.
  We suspected the problem lay with
the  Reading Prong, a granite  rock
formation  stretching from eastern
Pennsylvania to New England, first
noted by the U.S. Departmnt of Energy
in its national search for uranium
resources in the early 1970s. In fact, the
Department of Energy had been funding
a survey of the Prong in Pennsylvania
over the last few  years.
  We were confronted by a problem that
stretched 45 miles from  Reading to the
New Jersey border, was six to eight
miles wide, and included over 20,000
homes in four counties.
  A major radon  program was obviously
not  part  of DER's  planned initiatives,
but  we knew we had to react
immediately with as many resources as
we could muster. We started with the
Watras neighbors, then called a public
meeting  to explain radon and offer free
testing. This procedure has been
repeated again and again in the last year
and a half as we have moved further out
into the  Prong.
  Initially, we had no equipment, no
program, nothing except our
responsibility to address the problem.
EPA's Radiation Laboratory from
Montgomery, AL, loaned equipment and
crews to help with the testing during
those first crucial weeks of 1985. DOE
brought in its helicopter to search for
radon "hot spots" from the air.
  And  we tested, day after day, week
after week. From the beginning, we have
found that a  fairly constant percentage
of 50 to 60 percent of the homes
surveyed have radon above .02 WL.
  An office was established in
Gilbertsville, near the Watras home,
with staff from DER's Bureau of
Radiation Protection. Working from the
back of a dairy store, their early
struggles included just getting
telephones, typewriters, and  finally a
computer to  store the test results.
Nevertheless, we were soon able to
begin returning lives to normal. The
Watras family, for example, was able to
return home  after the Philadelphia
Electric Co.,  in cooperation with DER,
had paid for  remediation work by ARIX
Engineers, of  Grand Junction, CO. This
work, which  cost over $32,000, involved
installing a radon barrier on  exterior
basement foundation walls, sealing and
ventilating the interior foundation wall,
sealing all floor slab openings and
joints, and installing a subfloor
ventilation system. Radon  levels in the
Watras home dropped from 13.5 WL to
.009  WL.
  Although  levels rose again last fall,
adjustments,  including the addition of
fans, were able to bring radon in the
Watras home below .02 WL.
Bob Lewis, radiation health phy.sici.sf
with the Pennsylvania Department of
Environmental Resources, unloads
monitoring equipment from a van. A
combination mobile field office and lab,
the van serves as a sort of "mother
ship" for field workers from the state's
Bureau of Radiation Protection office in
Gilbertsville, PA.
                                                                                                      EPA JOURNAL

                                                              Workers check radon levels and
                                                              ventilation in an underground mine.
                                                              Estimates of the risk of lung cancer due
                                                              to radon exposure are based on studies
                                                              of miners.
  ARIX also diagnosed 25 other
radon-plagued homes for DER, and the
results were collected into an advisory
booklet on various building types and
remedies. Residents, already unnerved
by this unexpected threat, were
impatient for remedies and for financial
help from the government.
  Our job was cut out for us when
the state  legislature approved $1
million to develop a testing program for
the entire Prong. We had already spent
nearly $1 million in unbudgeted money
for testing, but had concentrated in
southern  Berks County where radon was
initially found.
  Faced with offering free radon testing
to over 40,000 residences in four
counties, we sought a new approach.
With a press conference by Governor
Dick Thornburgh and full-page, repeat
advertising in five newspapers and over
a dozen radio stations serving the Prong,
we offered mail-in radon tests to
residents in  the four counties. The task
was made no easier by a large Hispanic
population in the Prong area that
required translating all our radon
materials into Spanish and hiring a
bilingual community relations
  Over 20,000 testing requests  came in,
many in the immediate weeks after the
Governor's announcement, which had
also unveiled a $3 million loan program
to help homeowners rid their homes of
radon. Whether it was the anonymity
of the mail-in testing or the light at the
end of the financial tunnel, over 50
percent of all those eligible for the free
testing have  responded.
  Radon has been a most difficult issue
with which  to deal. At first,
Pennsylvania was the only state to
know much  of anything, and our basic
problem was trying to communicate the
risks of radon gas without  raising  undue
panic. Now,  everybody seems to know
about radon  and the problem is why
don't we. state and federal government,
know more.
  We welcome this dialogue, this
attention, because that's how answers
are found. We think Pennsylvania has
contributed and will continue to
contribute as more is learned about this
national problem called radon. But ours
is not just scientific curiosity; we feel
great sympathy for the many citizens
whose lives  have been disturbed by this
unseen threat. We feel great sympathy
for the parents who worry  that  their
children may develop lung cancer in 20
years. We feel sympathy for the young
homeowners who struggle  to meet a
mortgage each month for a home that
could cost thousands of dollars more to
make safe from radon.
  We do not feel helpless,  however. We
have acted, to the extent of our state
resources and to the best of our abilities.
And even though the battle is just
begun, we take a moment to savor
conquering that first hurdle.  D

Making  Sense  of  Radon
for the  News
by Roberta  Baskin
  It's not easy to focus attention on
   something you can't see or smell,
 taste or feel, so making sense of radon
 for television news was a special
 challenge. In TV, we're at our best when
 there is something to show. "Covering"
 an invisible gas defies  the imagination.
  What eventually captured the media's
 attention was a dramatic; incident.
 tStanley Watras of Boyertown, PA, kept
 setting off alarms at the nuclear power
 plant where he worked. When the
 experts finally traced the problem to
 fantastically high levels of radon gas in
 his home, the media had something
 tangible—a family of victims living in a
 radioactive cloud. That revelation led to
 a flurry of media attention and radon
 testing in the Reading Prong area, a
 radon-bearing geological formation that
 stretches through Pennsylvania. But the
 issue's coverage was represented as a
 local problem. In the nation's capital,
 we could pity those poor families in
 Boyertown without being touched by
 the problem directly. We were safe at
 home in  our beds. Or so we thought.
  Radiation experts seemed to agree
 that, as serious as the  radon problem is
 along the Reading Prong, it is not
 confined to that geographic area. In fact,
 there seemed to be acknowledgment
 that, as more homes are tested
 nationwide, radon at even higher levels
 would be discovered. It left us
 wondering what  we might find in the
 Washington,  DC  area.
  Checking with the Department of
 Energy about that possibility was not
 encouraging. DOE officials felt radon
 testing here would be  uneventful,
 certainly not a high priority. But, since
 fl!()l)cr((i Hnskin is n reporter for
 W/LA-TV in \\'nsliin»lon, /)CJ

there's no way to know without doing
the tests, they decided to help us out,
providing we followed their guidelines
and standards. If it turned out there was
no radon hazard in the Washington
area, we could at least give people an
added measure of peace of mind.
  The ground rules DOE set up for us
involved coming up with a random
sample of some fifty single-family
homes with basements. We would test
them in the basements and living areas,
first in the fall, then following up in the
winter when homes are  "tightened up."
We came up with our volunteers  in the
District of Columbia, Maryland, and
Virginia, and arranged to place carbon
cannisters in the  homes  to take air
It's not easy to focus attention
on something you can't see or
smell,  taste or feel.
samples. These were all sent to DOE's
Environmental Management Laboratory
in New York City for analysis.
  The results surprised all of us. In
simple terms, the radon levels were
about three times higher than the
known national average. Nearly half the
homes tested were above the
Environmental Protection Agency's
suggested action level. Although
our levels didn't approach the
Reading Prong problem, they were
definitely cause for concern. A few of
the homes had radon levels exceeding
the Bureau of Mines safety standard for
uranium workers. We had opened  a
Pandora's Box. The five months of
preparation that went into our series of
radon reports did not prepare us for the
public's reaction.
   The station received hundreds of
calls from homeowners who wanted to
find out how to get their homes
radon-tested. But  our phones weren't
the only ones ringing off the hook. The
state health departments in Maryland
and Virginia were each getting
thousands of calls. Officials complained
they couldn't get their coats off, much
less handle anything else but radon
calls. All state resources for radiation
issues were channelled into handling
endless radon questions from the
public. The EPA got its fair share  of the
spillover. And one person, WJLA-TV's
sports anchor Frank Herzog, got more
than his fair share of calls.
  Herzog was one of the volunteers in
our radon survey. He had given up
smoking three years ago, but radon tests
in his home revealed he was getting a
dose similar to that from smoking a
pack and a half of cigarettes a day. It was
not cheery news, but he was a good
sport about it. He was an even better
sport about the calls he started getting at
all kinds of hours from people who
wanted to know what  they should do
about radon because they figured  he
was an expert. Fortunately, he was able
to lower his home's radon levels by
following some simple
  As hundreds more homes were  tested,
we started to get new data. Unlike the
volunteers in our radon survey, many of
the homeowners were eager to keep the
problem quiet. In fact, the majority of
callers were far more concerned about
their property values than any possible
health hazard. They were anxious to
find  out what they could do about it,
and equally anxious that no one else
learn of their problem. In many cases,
this made it difficult to do follow-up
reports. For example, one woman who
called was outraged about how high her
radon levels were and how she couldn't
get anyone to do anything for her.
Indeed they were high: 20
times higher than the EPA's
                                                              EPA JOURNAL

On the air: TV mnvsivoman Roberta Baskin reports on the results ol radon tests in
the Washington, IX!!, metropolitan ami.
recommended action level. She was
particularly concerned because she
lived in a new house and the developer
was building hundreds more homes up
the street from her. On  her first call, she
wanted the world to know about the
potential hazard. By the second call, she
wanted to keep it very, very quiet. She
said she'd found someone to do the
remedial work on her home, providing
she not talk to any journalists. That case
was not unique.
  Occasionally we heard from families
who wanted to share their experiences
in the hope others would benefit. In one
of those cases, the family was building a
bedroom in the basement for their eight
year-old  son. Radon testing showed
a level of radon equal to getting a chest
X-ray every passing hour, Although most
of the renovation was complete, the
parents decided not to  move their son
downstairs until they found a way to
bring down the radon levels. But, as a
benefit of the publicity, they were
contacted by an engineering company
that specializes in radon-proofing
homes. The company is doing the work
at no charge in the hopes it can
publicize its success later on.
  In the aftermath of our radon reports,
the Maryland and Virginia health
departments have put more resources
into their radon efforts. In Virginia, the
state is now radon-testing about 600
homes to get a better notion of how
serious the problm is there. An "800
number" was installed to help answer
questions, and a booklet was produced
to explain more about radon, along with
basic advice about what to do about it,
Both Virginia and Maryland joined  EPA
in encouraging homeowners to get their
homes tested. We took a cue from that
advice to try and persuade officials to
radon-test the White House. The
officials we were referred to were
delighted to hear from us because they
wanted to get their own homes tested.
But our calls did lead to dozens of
detectors being placed around the White
House, all of which turned up  low
readings, according to a spokesman.
  It was rewarding to get people in high
places and near places  and far away
places to become aware of the radon gas
problem and how it may affect them
directly- The fact that dozens of
television, radio, and newspaper
reporters contacted us from all around
the country is a hopeful sign that the
story will continue to unfold
everywhere. That's important since
there is a temptation to ignore a
problem like radon because it's unseen.
Another temptation is for homeowners
to cover it up. The media really have a
responsibility to stop that from
happening. The problem won't go away
by itself.  And the consequences will
only grow worse. In fact, hiding the
issue only raises the specter of future
litigation. The developers, the builders,
the home sellers who conceal a radon
hazard today are likely to be the subject
of tomorrow's stories. There will also be
future stories about fly-by-night
radon-testing companies . . . the sort
preying on old ladies. The mind reels at
the entrepreneurial possibilities.
Mayonnaise jars could  be used to test
for radon, and who knows what else.
But the more attention  radon gets, the
more enlightened the public will  be,
meaning  the more responsibly it will be
dealt with. An important role for
reporters is to keep radon from being
relegated to the obscurity of the
basement. People need  to be reminded
that it's there . . . and that they can do
something about it.  Q

Beginning  with
a  Phone  Call
by Michael J. Chern
 «T A Then the lady you're speaking to
    VV breaks down crying because
 she's worried that she and her family
 may die of lung cancer, you feel like
 dropping everything else and spending
 a month helping this one person until
 her problem is solved," says Bill
 Belanger, EPA Region 3's radiation
 expert for the last five years. Belanger is
 talking about his first-hand experience
 working directly with people who have
 high radon levels in their homes.
  Until a year and a half ago, Belangei
 spent much of his time working on
 emergency drills for nuclear power
 plants.  His only experience with
 radiation in houses was in a
 Lansdowne, PA, home which had been
 used by a university professor in the
 1940s to refine radium for use in
 hospitals. The house is now so
 contaminated with radioactivity that it
 was evacuated under the emergency
 provisions of Superfuud and added to
 the Superfund National Priorities List
 for remedial cleanup.
  Now, with the discovery of high
 radon levels in the Reading Prong area
 of Pennsylvania, Belanger  spends almost
 all  his time on this problem.

 First Word

 Belanger's serious involvement with
 naturally occurring radon began on
 December 19, 1984, with, a phone call
 from Charles Porter, Director of EPA's
 Eastern Environmental Radiation
 Facility in  Montgomery, AL.
  Belanger remembers that the
 conversation began with Porter saying,
 "Bill, you better sit down.  There's a
 house in your region that has 13
 working levels (WL)!" ("Working level"
 is one of tin: measures used to express
 radon exposure.)
  Belanger replied, "Are you sure you
 didn't slip the decimal a couple of
 places?" Until that time, everyone's
 experience with natural radon had
 indicated that  a high indoor reading was
 0.1 WL; Belanger had taken readings of
 0.3 WL in the  Lansdowne  house and
 had considered that extraordinarily

 (Cnern is a former Public fn/ormation
 Officer lor EPA Region .'!.)
  Porter's 13 WL referred to radon
levels found in the home of Stanley
Watras of Boyertown, PA. Watras, a
construction engineer, had  set off
radiation monitors while entering the
Limerick nuclear power plant where he
worked, and the source  of the radiation
had been identified as his  house.

Early Actions

EPA's radiation experts quickly realized
that the discovery of radon  in the
Watras house probably would mean an
extensive monitoring program in the
Reading Prong. "It would have been too
much of a coincidence to expect that
the only homeowner with high radon
readings was an employee at a nuclear
power plant," says Belanger. "If it was a
naturally occurring problem, there had
to  be more houses with  it."
  One of the first concerns  of state  and
federal officials in the monitoring
program was whether to use protective
equipment for the monitoring team.
Normally, workers who  knowingly  go
into areas with high contaminant levels
wear such equipment, and homes with
10 to 20 WL are considered to have very
high levels.
  "But if you were a homeowner, what
would you think if we showed up at
your door in gas masks and said we
wanted to take radon readings in your
home?" asks Belanger. The  EPA field
staff finally decided to work without
protective equipment. They reasoned
that, even if they entered a  few houses
with high radon readings, their length of
exposure would be too brief to have a
significant health effect.

Working in the Reading Prong

At the request of Pennsylvania
environmental officials,  Belanger joined
the field monitoring effort in April  1985
to  take radon measurements in the
Reading Prong.
  The first step in measuring radon is to
take a screening measurement to
determine the highest level in the
house.  EPA recommends that this
reading be taken in the basement or the
lowest  part  of the house during the
heating season or some other time when
the house is closed. If this reading is
Janet Luily, EPA

 low, radon can usually be dismissed as
 a problem.
  If a high level is found, however,
 further measurements are taken in the
 most frequently occupied parts of the
 house. Only after  these additional
 readings are completed is it possible to
 tell the extent of the radon problem.
  "But it's up to the homeowner to
 decide what will be done,"  says
 Belanger. "We can make a
 recommendation as to what level the
 homeowner should shoot for. We have
 been recommending the  .02 WL, but the
 homeowner doesn't have to accept that.
 He may not be willing to spend the
 amount of  money needed to reach that
 level. Or, perhaps he is not satisfied that
 .02 WL is safe enough, and  he wants to
 go lower. He may decide he is willing to
 give up regular use of his basement. All
 these things are alternatives that only
 the homeowner can and  should decide."

 Remediation Research

 Helping  homeowners  decide what to do
 is another  part of  EPA's  Radon Action
 Program. The Agency has embarked on
 an intensive research  project in the

Hole in the floor of a  house  under
construction is an  entry point /or radon.
The hole—a result of standard
construction practices—will probably be
hidden by floor covering  when (In;
house is complete. Other common
radon entry points are sum;) pump
holes, crawl spaces, and  cracks in
foundation slabs. "If we can easily find
the entry places of radon," says EPA
expert  Bill  Belanger, "the control co.sf.s
are usually reasonable."
                                                                                                      EPA JOURNAL

Checking his ivatch, Bill Belanger times
u jive-minute indoor air sample for
radon testing.
Reading Prong to try various radon
reduction methods in a variety of
houses representative of those found
most often in the area. The project is
designed to find affordable as well as
effective  radon reduction techniques.
  According to  Belanger, the costs of
radon removal can vary  greatly. "If we
can easily find the entry places of
radon, the control costs are usually
reasonable," he says. "The job can often
be done for a thousand dollars  or less."
  "On the other hand," he warns, "if the
house already has  a finished basement
or there is nothing obvious to do, it may
cost many thousands of  dollars because
you may have to make major structural
  EPA also has found that the higher
the level of radon in a house, the higher
the costs of control. "If you have 0.2 WL
in the house and you want to get down
to .02, that's a 90 percent reduction,"
says Belanger. "That's not too hard to
do. But if vou have 2 WL and want to
get to .02, that's a 99 percent
  EPA has looked at many reduction
techniques that reduce radon by about
90 percent. But it is difficult to predict
exact costs until the construction of the
house is determined. It's also difficult to
be sure that control measures work all
the time. Take, for example, Belanger's
October 1985 visit to Boyertown, PA,
with a U.S. Senator who was inspecting
one of the homes in EPA's remediation
research program. It turned out to be a
classic example of Murphy's law that
anything that can go wrong, will.
  Belanger recalls that, after explaining
to the Senator some of the things that
had been done to the house, he was
asked to take a radon measurement.
  "This home originally had a
concentration of 7 WL," says Belanger,
"and my own measurements taken soon
after the house was fixed showed only a
little above 0.02  WL. But this day, I got
a measurement of 3 WL!"
  "All of us there—the Senator,  the
homeowner, and I—realized something
was very wrong," Belanger continues.
"Since the highest reading was
previously in the basement, I went
down there to take a reading. It was 15;
more than twice as high as the house
had been before we did anything to it."
  "At this point, the homeowner was at
the point of tears," says Belanger.
  After the Senator left, Belanger spent
some time looking around the house
and found a bedroom window open on
the downwind side of the house. No
other windows were open, yet air was
rushing out of that window,
  "I figured that, since the rest of the
house was sealed, the air going out must
be coming in through the foundation,
bringing radon with it." Belanger closed
the window, went  down to the
basement, and opened up one of the
basement windows on the upwind side,
allowing fresh air to enter the house.
Within  an hour, the level of radon had
been reduced by a  factor of two.
   That afternoon state officials took
more  measurements, and the level had
dropped to under 0.1 WL. They
returned the next day and took readings
under .01 \VL—well within the state
and proposed federal guidelines.
  Says Belanger of the experience, "We
learned a lot that day. And not  just that
things can go wrong at inopportune
moments. Most importantly, we learned
that open windows and air currents can
have a dramatic effect on radon control

Working with Citizens

Despite occasional  events like the
Boyertown visit, Belanger has nothing
but positive things  to say about his
experiences working with people who
have radon problems.
  "All of us from EPA working there
have an enormous amount of sympathy
for  the people we meet with high radon
levels in their homes." says Belanger.
"We would like to help every one of
them  individually.  But we just can't.
There aren't enough of us.  Our primary
job  must be to  provide advice and
assistance to the states so that they can
help everyone with a problem."
  The most important thing in
providing help, he believes, is getting
the  people's trust. "They believe you
and accept your help if you give it to
them straight," he says.
  "If you try to mislead thorn in any
way, if you try to minimize the  problem
or make it sound more serious than it  is,
they pick it up right away. People living
up there (in the Reading Prong) have
spoken to others about the problem.
They know the background. So, you
can't throw bull at them.
  "I feel very good about my work
there," says Belanger. "It's tike working
as a medic in an ambulance. You  can
point to the people you've  helped. This
is what drives you. You feel like you're
saving lives. That's the real motivation
in a job  like this."  a

Guidance for  Dealing
with  Radon
 To help people understand radon, EPA
 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
 recently published A Citizen's Guide to
 Radon: What It Is and What to Do About
 It. Following ore excerpts from this
How is radon detected?

Since you cannot see or smell radon,
special equipment is needed to detect it.
The two most popular,
commercially-available radon detectors
are the charcoal canister and the alpha
track detector. Both  of these devices are
exposed to the air in your home for a
specified period of time and sent to a
laboratory for analysis.
  There are other techniques—requiring
operation by trained personnel—which
can be used to measure radon levels,
but such techniques may be more
  Your measurement result will be
reported to you in one of two ways.
Results from devices which measure
radon decay products are reported as
"Working Levels" (WL). Results from
devices which measure concentrations
of radon gas are reported as "picocuries
per liter" (pCi/1).
                                      How can I get a radon detector?

                                      Homeowners in some areas are being
                                      provided with detectors by their state or
                                      local government. In many areas, private
                                      firms offer radon testing. Your state
                                      radiation protection office may be able
                                      to provide you with information on the
                                      availability of detection devices or
                                       The U.S. Environmental Protection
                                      Agency conducts a Radon Measurement
                                      Proficiency Program. This voluntary
                                      program allows  laboratories and
                                      businesses to demonstrate their
                                      capabilities in measuring indoor radon.
                                      The names of firms participating in this
                                      program can be  obtained from your state
                                      radiation protection office or from your
                                      EPA regional office.
How should radon detectors be

 . . . have a short-term "screening"
measurement made to give you an idea
of the highest radon level in your home.
Thus, you can find out quickly and
inexpensively whether or not you have
a potential radon problem.
  The screening measurement should be
made in the lowest livable area of your
home (the basement, if you have  one).
All windows and doors should be
closed for at least 12 hours prior  to the
start of the test, and kept closed as
much as possible throughout the  testing
period ...
  Depending upon the result of your
screening measurement, you may need
to have follow-up measurements  made
to give you a better idea of the average
radon level in your home ...
  We strongly recommend that you
make follow-up measurements before
you make any final decisions about
whether to undertake major efforts to
permanently correct the problem.
  Follow-up measurements should be
made in at least two lived-in areas of
your home. If your home has lived-in
areas on more than one floor, you
should make measurements in a room
on each of the floors. The results of the
follow-up measurements should be
averaged together.
                                     What do my test results mean?

                                     The results of your follow-up
                                     measurements provide you with an idea
                                     of the average concentration throughout
                                     your home. The actual risk you face
                                     depends upon the amount of time you
                                     are exposed to this concentration.
                                      One, way to think about the risk
                                     associated with radon exposure is to
                                     compare it with the risk from other
                                     activities. Figure i gives an idea of how
                                     exposure to various radon levels over a
                                     lifetime compares to the risk of
                                     developing lung cancer from smoking
                                     and from chest  x-rays.  Figure 1 also
                                     compares these levels to the average
                                     indoor and outdoor radon
                                                              EPA JOURNAL

Radon Risk Evaluation Chart














Estimated number of
lung cancer deaths
due to radon exposure
(out of 1000)






10, , CA

exposure levels
1000 times
average outdoor^
100 times
average indoor 41
level -W

|L More than 60 times
r non-smoker risk
1^ 4 pack-a-dav
F smoker
1^ 20,000 chest
x-rays per year
•^ /XvXvX-:-:^
100 times
average outdoor^ tw.

10 times average .:::;:
indoor level

10 times
average outdoor >

Average indoor
Average outdoor ,
••••••••••y 2 pack-a-day
ffffi |
wspl pack-a-day
S;;;:!: smoker

:;:::;::» R t! m P^

•• •••:•:• non-smoker risk

^200 chest x-rays
; : per year
k Non-smoker
risk of dying
from lung cancer
r20 chest x-rays
per year
Figure 1

How quickly should I take

In considering whether and how quickly
to take action based on your test results,
you may find the follovving guidelines
useful. EPA believes that you should try
to permanently reduce your radon levels
as-much  as possible. Based on currently
available infromation,  EPA believes that
levels in  most homes can be reduced to
about 0.02 WL (4 pCi/l).

If your results are about 1.0 WL or
higher, or about 200 pCi/l or higher:
Exposures in this range are among the
highest observed in homes.  Residents
should undertake action to reduce levels
as far below 1.0 WL (200 pCi/1] as
possible. We recommend that you take
action within several weeks. If this is
not possible, you should determine, in
consultation with appropriate state or
local health or radiation protection
officials,  if temporary relocation is
appropriate until the levels can be
If your results are about 0.1 to about
1.0 WL, or about 20 to about 200 pCi/l:
Exposures in this range are considered
greatly above  average for residential
structures. You should undertake action
to reduce levels as far below 0.1 WL (20
pCi/l) as possible. We recommend that
you take action within several months.

If your results are about 0.02 to about
0.1 WL, or about 4 pCi/l to about 20

Exposures in this range are considered
above average  for residential structures.
You  should undertake action to lower
levels to about 0.02  WL (4 pCi/l) or
below. We recommend that you take
action within a few  years, sooner if
levels are at the upper end of this range.

If your results are about 0.02 WL or
lower, or about 4 pCi/l or lower:

Exposures in this range are considered
average or slightly above average for
residential structures. Although
exposures in this range do present some
                                                                               risk of lung cancer, reductions of levels
                                                                               this low may be difficult, and
                                                                               sometimes impossible, to achieve.
                                                                                 Remember: There is increasing
                                                                               urgency for action at higher
                                                                               concentrations of radon. The higher the
                                                                               radon level in your home, the faster you
                                                                               should take action to  reduce your
How can I reduce my risk from

Your risk of lung cancer from exposure
to radon depends upon the amount of
radon entering your home and the
length of time it remains in your living
areas. Listed below are some actions
you might take to immediately reduce
your risk from radon.

• Stop smoking and discourage
smoking in your home.

• Spend less time in areas with higher
concentrations of radon, such as the

• Whenever practical, open all
windows and turn on fans to increase
the air flow into and through the house.
This is especially important in the
• If your home has a crawl space
beneath, keep the crawl space vents on
all sides of the house fully open all

The bookJet from ivhich  the above trxt
is excerpted is available from state
radiation protection offices. Also
available from these sources  is another
new EPA publication Radon Reduction
Methods: A Homeowner's Guide, ivitli
information on methods which might be
used to  reduce the level of radon  in

The  Indoor
Pollution  Burden
by Claudine Schneider
          home is your castle," goes the
      old saying, and most Americans
are still convinced that home is one of
the last refuges left from the many ills of
modern living. Unfortunately, this belief
may be far from reality as  the evidence
mounts regarding the harmful effects of
indoor pollution.
  EPA spends $230 million to control
air  pollution outside, but only $2
million on indoor air pollution. Based
on  the amount of time Americans spend
in buildings, federal research spending
 Indoor air is more polluted on
 the average than outdoor air.
 on indoor air quality amounts to only
 two cents per person-year of exposure,
 compared to about six dollars per
 person-year of exposure outdoors. Yet
 indoor air is more polluted on the
 average than outdoor air, and we spend
 more than 75 percent of our time in it.
 (Infants and the elderly, the groups most
 sensitive to pollutants, spend 90 percent
 of their time indoors.) Through indoor
 air, we're exposed daily to known
 carcinogens such as asbestos, as well as
 to pesticides, cleaning supplies, and
 other chemicals whose effects are yet
 unknown. The tobacco smoke inhaled
 by active and passive smokers includes
 fCongresswoman Schneider (K-H/J is a
 member of (hi; C.S. /louse Committee, on
 Science and Technology where she is
 ranking minority member of (lie
 Subcommittee on N'dtiiml Resources,
 Agricultural lies-eureh and fi'nvironimmt.
 She is ulso (i member of !he
 .Men haul A/orine ami Fisheries
over 2,000 chemicals, many of which
are known toxins and carcinogens. And
now we've learned that radon—a
naturally occurring radioactive gas that
causes lung cancer—is present in
millions of American homes at exposure
levels greater than those regulated in
uranium mines.
  In fact, the majority of known
pollution-related deaths in the U.S. is
caused by tobacco (350,000 deaths per
year) and radon (5,000 to 20,000 deaths
per year). Yet the government continues
to subsidize tobacco farmers, allow
seductive cigarette advertising, and
support a reduction of the cigarette tax.
The case of radon, too, is noteworthy
because  it could be solved relatively
easily. If EPA and other concerned
agencies put a reasonable emphasis on
radon alone, we could prevent
several thousand lung cancer deaths
each year.
  Techniques for identifying and
measuring indoor radon have improved
immensely over the past 10 years, and
inexpensive monitors, sensitive and
accurate enough to determine whether
radon is a concern in individual homes,
are now available for less than $20.
Many homeowners can modify their
homes fairly simply to minimize radon
concentrations  by closing off the radon
entry  points and ventilating as near to
the  source as possible.
  Some of the  best radon research and
monitoring equipment has emerged
from federal energy programs analyzing
the ventilation  conditions of
energy-efficient buildings. Popular press
reports have repeatedly implicated
"tightened" buildings as the cause of
indoor pollution, but the evidence to
date does not indicate that energy
conservation efforts are creating health
hazards. According to a report in
progress by the American Council for an
Energy Efficient Economy, researchers
found homes with extremely low
ventilation rates where radon was not a
concern, while  leakier homes
experienced high radon levels. The key
is to identify those homes with
significant sources, and implement
available control techniques.
  One of the problems of this health
threat is that the location of homes with
high radon levels remain largely
unknown. A national survey of indoor
radon in the U.S. housing stock is of
paramount importance to understand
the distribution of this hazard across the
country. Additional data on the
distribution of other significant indoor
pollutants are also needed.
  A key part of the problem lies with
Congress which needs to reconsider and
update the way it funds  and organizes
all the agencies that are protecting our
health. Agency budgets should be
related to their potential contribution to
our well-being.
Indoor air hazards can be
significantly reduced before
we have a problem  of
epidemic proportions.
  That is why I support funding
 specifically allocated for the study of
 indoor environments. This past year I
 sponsored the Indoor Air Quality Act of
 1985, which was incorporated into
 EPA's pending Office of Research and
 Development authorization bill. It
 would require that EPA:

 • Coordinate federal, state, local, and
 private research efforts relating to
 indoor air:

 • Prepare a  research plan;

 • Conduct research to identify, monitor,
 characterize, and measure pollutants;
                                                                                                     EPA JOURNAL

                       Heating and
                                           Air   pollution  from
                                           many sources assails
                                           us in our homes and
                                           offices, as shown in
                                           this cut-away view of
                                           a dwelling.
                                             Studies show  that
                                           indoor  pollution  can
                                           be two to five times
                                           greater than  outdoor
                                           pollution.  Many of its
                                           sources are common
                                           household products.
     Air Pollution,   In  My Home?
study the effects on health; identify
high-risk building types; evaluate
control technologies; and disseminate

• Establish broad-based advisory
groups; and
• Report on the risks to human health
associated with indoor air pollution, the
need for further research, and the need
for possible federal actions to mitigate
risks associated with indoor air
   I also consider it appropriate for the
Committee on  Indoor Air Quality,
which has been designated by Congress
to coordinate the research efforts of the
16 agencies examining indoor
environments, to convene a study with
EPA to reprioritize funding within the
related agencies so that each dollar
spent has a fair chance of contributing
equally to improving our health and
  Initiatives in the private sector have
also contributed to our knowledge of
indoor air quality. I  admire the efforts of
groups such as the Consumer Federation
of America (CFA) and the American
Council for an Energy Efficient
Economy (ACEEE) in bringing this issue
to the attention of policy-makers and
consumers alike. CFA has  designated
indoor air quality as its number one
health and safety issue, and has held
conferences  and published a newsletter
on this topic. ACEEE's ongoing research
clearly indicates that healthy indoor air
in energy-efficient homes is attainable;
but only a national commitment to
achieving this important public health
goal will get us  there.
  Much remains to be done, particularly
the establishment of an information
clearinghouse to effectively disseminate
information on indoor air quality. The
scientific and technical communities
working on these problems need to
exchange information, as do the many
state and local health agencies. And
last, but certainly not least, individual
citizens who may have potential
problems desperately need information.
  Since I began focusing on this issue, I
have received many requests for
information, as 1 am sure EPA and other
organizations have  also. Consumers
want to know: How do I know if I have
a problem? How can I measure for
pollutants in my home? What health
effects  are indicative of an indoor air
pollution problem? What should I do  to
combat unsafe levels? These and scores
of other questions need to be answered.
Arming consumers and building
operators with accurate information will
help prevent the fraud and marketing
abuse which lurk around the corner
whenever a new hazard is coupled with
a lack of adequate and reliable
  There is another old adage I strongly
believe, and that is "an ounce of
prevention is  worth a pound of cure."
With a  commitment by EPA, other
government agencies, and the private
sector,  I believe that indoor air hazards
can be  significantly reduced before we
have a  problem  of epidemic proportions
and before Americans become  resigned
to living in  homes that make them
sick. D

by Roy Popkin
   Before the reactor blew on April 26,
   few Americans had heard of the
Soviet Union's Chernobyl nuclear power
plant; 48 hours later, it was a household
word, the anxious focus of the press,  the
public,  and the government. Was
dangerous radioactive fallout heading to
the United States? Was the health and
safety of Americans abroad being
threatened? No one knew.
  Answering these questions became
the job  of the Task Force on the Soviet
Nuclear Accident. At the peak of its
activity, it was measuring domestic
radiation levels, monitoring foreign
levels, tracking the situation at
Chernobyl, and handling hundreds of
phone calls everyday. For almost a
month, the Task Force was the source of
information for Americans on the
world's worst nuclear disaster.
  Chernobyl was a secret disaster at
first. The initial evidence that a major
nuclear accident had occurred came not
from Soviet sources, but from Sweden,
where on April 27 workers at a nuclear
power plant were found to have
radioactive particles on their clothes. It
was Sweden's search for the source of
radioactivity—there was no leak at the
                                  At EPA's Eastern Environmental
                                  Ruilhititm Facility in Montgomery, AL,
                                  Vicki Lloyd tests samples of pasteun'/.w
                                  dairy milk for Strontium 90, a fission
                                  product that may be, present in nuclear
                                  fallout. Following the ac;< itk'nt (if
                                  Chernobyl, EPA increased  milk
                                  monitoring from  once a month to fivice
                                  a week.
(Popkin is a writer/editor for the KPA
Office of Public Affairs.)
                                                                          What Does a  Task Force
                                                                          Really Do?
                                         The letter from the White House was
                                         short and to the point. From Larry
                                      Speakes, Deputy Press Secretary to
                                      President Ronald Reagan, it was
                                      addressed to EPA Administrator Lee M.
                                        "My congratulations on a job well
                                      done in the wake of the Chernobyl
                                      accident. The interogency group you
                                      headed so e;ffectively ought to be used
                                      as a model for future situations like

                                        Interagency task forces are not
                                      unusual in emergencies and even in
                                      relatively mundane situations. The
                                      Chernobyl task force was formed
                                      quickly, its structure based in large part
                                      on an existing Memorandum of
                                      Understanding which gave EPA the lead
                                      role when there was an atmospheric
                                      nuclear detonation abroad, as in the
                                      case of two Chinese  nuclear tests which
                                      led to extensive mouitoring in the
                                      United States. Although Chernobyl was
                                      not the same, the required response
                                      activities were judged to be quite
                                        The Task Force met for the first time
                                      at 5:30 PM on Wednesday, April 30.
                                      The fire in the graphite core was still
                                      burning and the situation at the reactor
                                      site was still unclear. The Task Force's
                                      first job was to assign tasks:
                                        EPA would be the clearinghouse for
                                      offers of assistance to the Soviet Union
                                      and would coordinate with the
                                      Department of State; DOE would help
                                                                                                 EPA JOURNAL

   Swedish plant—that led to the first hint
   of a nuclear problem in the Soviet
    EPA first learned about a possible
   radiological incident from press and
   citizen inquiries coming in on Monday,
   April 28. The Agency's Press, Radiation,
   and International Activities offices
   began fielding calls while working with
   the State Department, the Nuclear
   Regulatory Commission (NRCj, and the
   Department of Energy (DOE) to find out
   what was happening.  Although the
   Soviet news agency, TASS, finally
   issued a terse statement that evening
  confirming an accident at the Chernobyl
  plant, the Soviets offered no details. The
  resulting information vacuum fueled
  rumors of all kinds, from fatality
  estimates to speculation about fires in
  adjoining reactors.
    Tuesday morning, an interagency
  group met at the White House to review
  what little information was then
  available. Although President Reagan
  was en route to the economic summit
  meetings in Tokyo, EPA was confirmed
  as the "lead" agency for coordinating
  the federal response, and EPA
  Adminstrator Lee Thomas  was
  designated head of the Task Force. In
  addition to EPA, the Task Force was to
  include DOE and NRG, the White
  House, the Departments of State,
  Interior,  and Agriculture, the National
  Oceanic  and Atmospheric
  Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Air
  Force, the Food and Drug
  Administration (FDA), the Federal
  Emergency Management Agency
  (FEMA), the Federal Aviation
  Administration (FAA), and the U.S.
  Public Health Service.
     The Task Force immediately
  established an "up front" approach to
the FAA take measurements; the Centers
for Disease Control/FDA medical
network—normally used in
drug-tampering incidents—would be
used to inform state health officers. The
lead for-public information would be
EPA; and DOE would handle
congressional liaison. At the same
meeting, the Task Force also decided to
step up  the monthly ERAMS milk
monitoring to twice a week.
  On Thursday, the Task Force
broadened its assignments:
• The State Department was to report
on the Soviet obligation to report data.
• EPA's Office of International
Activities was to make
recommendations on an international
information exchange.
• EPA's Office of Radiation Programs
(ORP) was to work with the Department
of State to prepare a cable  requesting
technical information from the USSR
and to solicit information based on
questions submitted by Task Force
• A Health Working Group was formed
to examine potential long- and
short-term health effects, identify
symptoms and effects, and distribute
information to health officials.
•  ORP/EPA was to be responsible for
day-to-day events, reporting, and  data

•  A DOE-NRC-FEMA-CIA  subgroup was
to develop and evaluate possible reactor

•  NOAA was to provide the
meteorological and dispersion
information for the daily Task Force
• DOE was to evaluate the technical
aspects of extinguishing a graphite
reactor fire.

  The Task Force met daily through
May 9, then skipped the weekend,
although updated task force reports
were issued by the EPA press office on
Saturday and Sunday. Excerpts from
minutes of Task Force meetings show
the variety of actions taken by the
interagency group.
  May 2—The Task Force decided to
contact counterpart agencies in affected
countries to obtain radiological data.
{NRG placed calls to 18 countries.)
  May 3—NRG sent a notice to its
licensees requesting they report any
unusual radiation levels. EPA was to
get radiological data from DOD bases in
Europe and Japan, as well as coordinate
data from several other countries.
  NOAA reported that the radioactive
plume had reached Japan, but no
numbers were firmly established. The
Department of State was to call our
embassy there, and EPA was to
determine when data from the military
would be available. State and HHS were
to work on another cable to offer
medical liaison with the USSR. USDA
reported that  the World Agriculture
Outlook Board had requested data from
the Task Force to consider in its grain
and sugar beet projections. Early
radiation readings did not appear
  May 6—The Task Force decided to
begin publishing consolidated data,
with positive U.S. measurements placed
in context, their meaning and health
implications explained. The Health and
Agriculture Working Group(HAWG)
reported on projected health effects and
identified Protective Action Guides.
EPA was asked to provide radiation data
on returning U.S. citizens to the Health
and Agriculture group. Chairman
Thomas directed that any discussions
should explain protective action guides
and compare them with ERAMS and
other U.S.data.
  May 12—The Health and Agriculture
Working Group reported it had
completed development of an advisory
outlining levels of concern for imported
  May 14—the last meeting of the Task
Force. The group decided that EPA
would continue its operations,
including public reports and intensified
monitoring until  deemed to be not
necessary. Other  agencies would
continue to cooperate as needed. The
Task Force would issue a summary
health and dose assessment report with
EPA serving as the lead agency. EPA
and other agencies were to evaluate the
lessons learned in the context of their
individual responsibilities and push to
modify their own procedures
accordingly. HAWG would submit to
Lee Thomas a  list of areas needing
improvement.  The scope of the
Memorandum  of Understanding was to
be re-examined, as well as the need for
real time dose  and health  information,
and the  role of the State Department,
especially in relation to the need for an
international capability for faster,
real-time data  collection. Thomas
announced he  intended to send a
wrap-up  memorandum to  the White
House. D
  AUGUST 1986

the news media, providing access to
such top level experts as Harold Denton,
Director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation
for NRG; Dr. Lester Machta, director of
NOAA's Air Resources Laboratory; Dale
Bunch, DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary
for Reactor Deployment; and  Sheldon
Meyers, director of EPA's Office of
Radiation Programs (ORP) and head of
Task Force support efforts (with a
quickly mobilized team of ORP staff
serving as the focal point  for Task Force
support). At the first press conference,
Thomas promised every effort to
provide as much reliable information  as
was available. He also ruled out
conjecture and second-guessing.
Comments would be based on known
facts, even if there were gaps in the
information coming from Soviet or other
official sources.
  During the next few weeks, both the
facts and the radioactive clouds from
Chernobyl spread slowly westward.
EPA's Environmental Radiation
Ambient Monitoring System
(ERAMS)—continuously operated by
ORP and augmented by reports from
DOE national labs, the military, U.S.
diplomatic missions abroad, and
commercial nuclear power plants in this
country—provided daily radiation
measurements based on samples from
hundreds of monitoring posts in the
United States and abroad. The
headquarters press office worked seven
days a week until May 23, issuing daily
task force reports and fielding
thousands of in-person visits and phone
calls from reporters all over the world.
Chris Rice, press specialist for the
radiation program, began to feel  like the
"voice of Chernobyl" as he handled
phone calls from print and broadcast
 1 Trained All My  Life for This'
   Five days after the Chernobyl
    explosion ORP/Las Vegas
specialist Richard Hopper was home
preparing for dinner when the
telephone rang. By 11 that night he was
on a red-eye flight to Washington. His
luggage included a variety of hand-held
radiation monitors and 60 "Thermal
Luminescent Dosimeters," the familiar
looking film badges we see  in hospitals
and laboratories. He was on his way to
being EPA's man on the scene in
Eastern Europe.
   Hopper's mission? To monitor
radiation levels in U.S. diplomatic
missions in Poland, Hungary and
Bulgaria, the Eastern European countries
most directly in the path of
meteorological systems carrying
radioactive debris from the damaged
Soviet reactor.
   The next morning, the 43-year old,
dark-haired Westerner met  with other
members of the team he was joining at
EPA headquarters, then went to a
briefing at the State Department, where
the priority subject  of discussion was
whether to evacuate U.S. women and
children in those countries. Hopper,
whose regular job involves  monitoring
radioactivity and radiation  exposure
around the EPA Las Vegas Laboratories
and the Nevada nuclear test site,
suggested they hold the decision until
he'd had a chance to check the actual
radiation levels.
   Arriving in Warsaw on May 3, he
found the embassy people "full of
apprehension. Anxiety definitely had
taken over."
  Many Poles were reluctant to accept
their government's initial reassurances.
In fact, he believes their concern helped
the embassy attache speed him through
Polish customs without having his
instruments and equipment inspected.
  En route from the airport, Hopper
took readings in a number of places,
including office buildings and houses,
inside and outside. He found the
readings to be very low.  Because he had
spent many years at the Nevada test site
and had organized the monitoring
network after the Three Mile Island
incident, Hopper anticipated many
questions he would be asked, but also
assumed there would be problems in
Europe that he hadn't  heard about back
home. The first day in Poland, he met
with a team of Polish scientists (whose
knowledge of the Las Vegas lab—one
had actually been there—gave Hopper
added credibility). They told him they
were advising the populace to be wary
of drinking milk and water, and eating
vegetables that might contain radio-
active particles.
  That evening, he continued his
monitoring activities until late at night.
The next morning he spent two hours
briefing the entire embassy staff,
including families. He discussed the
exposure levels he had found and the
Polish scientists had recorded, putting
the levels into a perspective that
indicated there would be no long-term
health effects for the embassy personnel
and their families. After this, he met
privately with individuals—mostly
pregnant women—who had special
concerns but were reluctant to discuss
their fears in a public  gathering. To
Hopper, this was as important as talking
to the larger group. He knew, from years
of Nevada experience, that such
concerns are "very real and frightening
to the people involved. A danger you
can't see or feel or smell can seem much
worse than it really is."
  Before leaving Poland, Hopper also
went to Kracow and Poznan to monitor
radiation levels and brief the U.S.
consular staffs and their families; he
also talked to the students and staffs at
the schools attended by U.S. and British
embassy children. He additionally
managed a trip close to the border area
closest to Chernobyl, where he took
even more readings. His working days
ran easily to 18 hours. Before leaving
Poland, he set up a monitoring system
at the embassy and trained the staff to
use it over the next six months, a
process he repeated  in Hungary and
  In Hungary, too, where modern town
laboratories were doing the monitoring,
he found an openness about sharing
information on the part of government
authorities. And he found the same
need for empathetic briefing of embassy
people and their families. In Bulgaria,
there was little sharing of information
with him on the part of government
officials, but his sessions with U.S..
embassy personnel were comparable to
those in Warsaw and Budapest.
  Hopper has been on the EPA staff
since the agency was founded, corning
to EPA after serving at the  Nevada test
site and with the Public Health Service.
He has three children, the oldest 24,
                                                                                                        EPA JOURNAL

At the peak, eight press office staff
members were dealing with media and
other calls, although the pace slackened
as it became apparent that the
Chernobyl fire was out and that
radiation levels in the United States
were well below danger levels.
  In addition to calls from the press,
calls from organizations, congressional
offices, and concerned individuals were
also pouring into  headquarters, the
Regional Offices, and various EPA
laboratories. At headquarters,
responsibility for  answering such
inquiries was ultimately given to the
Office of Public and Private Sector
Liaison, which answered hundreds of
individual calls and also circulated
needed information through a system
developed by the Centers for Disease
Control to notify health officials of
over-the-counter drug tampering
   Most of the calls received by EPA
offices concerned possible dangers to
U.S. citizens traveling abroad, but others
were concerned with  reports of
radioactivity in specific parts of the
United States:
• Region 9 was called by a post office
in Seattle which had received a parcel
from Sweden. Was it safe to handle?

• Region 3 had a caller who wanted to
know when the radioactive cloud would
pass over Pittsburgh so she could take
in her wash.

• Research Triangle Park had a call
from a North Carolina dog breeder who
had arranged to purchase an expensive
German shepherd from a breeder in
West Germany. He wanted to know if
there had been heavy  fallout in the
and his wife, Jacki, is a health physicist.
Of this special assignment he says, "It
was the opportunity of a lifetime. I've
been training for this assignment for the
last 20 years."
  His feelings of satisfaction are more
than echoed by a message from the U.S.
Ambassador in  Poland to the Secretary
of State for relay to EPA:
  "The entire staff of Embassy Warsaw
joins me in expressing our heartfelt and
most sincere  thanks to Mr. Hopper for
the outstanding manner in which he
performed during his recent visit to
Poland. His superb technical
competence was perhaps expected, but
he proved to  be equally well qualified
and adept at  dealing with press
inquiries, explaining his findings,
reassuring worried mission, members,
and maintaining an invariably
cooperative and cheerful attitude
through long  and very  intensive
workdays. He was highly professional in
meetings with Polish scientific experts
and obtained valuable  information. He
enthusiastically undertook three long
and tiring field  trips to various regions
of Poland, making readings which
enabled policy decisions to be taken in
Washington. His serious but friendly
manner and long experience made him
particularly effective in visiting our
diplomatic school and  talking with
pupils there.  He ... earned our
unanimous admiration and respect." Q
               EPA radiation specialist Richard
               Hopper checks background radiation
               readings in front of the l/.S. h'mbnss}' in
               Warsaw, Poland, on Mav 5, 1986.
                                                      Wide World Photos

dog's home so he could cancel the deal
if the dog could get sick or harm his
other dogs in North Carolina.

  EPA's Office of International
Activities (OIA) was also heavily
involved. Radioactive debris from the
reactor was monitored around the world
and concern was high in  most countries.
OIA worked closely with the State
Department to get radiation data on
fallout within their borders. This
information was used to inform the
public of world-wide radiation levels
and potential health risks for travelers.
Richard Hopper of the ORP Las Vegas
facility was sent to Poland, Hungary,
and Bulgaria to work with U.S. Embassy
officials monitoring potential impacts
on U.S.  employees there.
  The Task Force met for the last time
on May 14. Its last public report was
issued on May 23, just short of four
weeks after the accident. Reports from
the Soviet Union are still adding new
information, EPA's ERAMS system
continues its regular monitoring
activity, as does the instrumentation
Hopper took to the U.S embassies
abroad.  The fallout from Chernobyl
created no health problems for
Americans here or abroad, but the
nation now knows that, should another
such accident occur or other radiation
emergencies arise, there is an effective
system in place to provide scientifically
credible information about potential
dangers and what to do about them, o
                                      At the Montgomery facility, Avis Culver
                                      collects precipitation samples for
                                      radiation analysis. To monitor fallout
                                      from Chernobyl, EPA also provided
                                      daily radiation measurements based on
                                      air samples from hundreds of
                                      monitoring posts in the U.S. and
                                                                                                          EPA JOURNAL

Advice  on  Asbestos
in  the  Home
by Dave  Ryan

 ti ~\  yTillions of Americans Face
   iVJL Asbestos Hazards in Homes"
 screams a headline in the Atlanta
 Constitution; "Is Asbestos Lurking in
 Your Home?" the San Diego  Union asks
 ominously; "As Home Asbestos Crisis
 Grows Worse, Remedies Can be Costly
 and Dangerous," the  WoJI Street Journal
 warns in Armageddon-like tones.
   True, home is where the heart is, but
 many Americans fear that it's also
 where the asbestos is—inside their
 domestic fortresses, creating  time bombs
 of cancer in their very own kitchens and
 recreation rooms.
 Approached with knowledge
 and caution, asbestos in any
 home can be safely brought
 under control.
   It's easy to see how citizens can
 become apprehensive under such a
 barrage of headlines, but EPA has some
 advice: don't panic.
   Asbestos is dangerous if inhaled, but
 its presence in your home is  not
 necessarily a cause for alarm. As long as
 asbestos-containing material  is
 maintained in good condition, there's
 usually no problem. It's only when this
 material is damaged that asbestos
 becomes dangerous, because  then the
 fibers can escape into the air and be
 inhaled. (Soft, easily crumbled material,
 which EPA calls friable, has  the greatest
 potential for releasing asbestos fibers
 into the air and therefore has the
 greatest potential to create health risks.)
   In the majority of cases, then, these
 materials are best left in place. In fact,
 it's usually more dangerous to try to
 remove them; improper removal can
 disperse high levels of asbestos into the

fHvan is ci Press Officer in the EPA
Office of Public Affairs.)

 AUGUST 1986
  Asbestos-containing materials can be
found in many areas throughout the
house, but these are the more common
areas where asbestos may be found:
• Pipe and Furnace Insulation: Many
homes built in the last 30 or 40 years
have hot water and steam pipes and
furnace ducts insulated with material
containing asbestos. The most common
type of this insulation contains asbestos
mixed with paper, textile, or cement
materials. These materials can often be
repaired if the damage is minimal and
in a confined area. Removal is
recommended for damaged  pipes when
more than a small  area has  deteriorated.

 • Wall and Ceiling Insulation: Homes
built between 1930 and 1950 may have
asbestos insulation sandwiched between
exterior and interior walls.  The
quantities of asbestos involved may be
substantial, and, correspondingly, so are
the risks of exposing and disturbing it.
Walls and ceilings should be checked
for concealed asbestos insulation before
beginning any repairs or renovations.
• Stove and furnace insulation:
Asbestos has frequently been used  to
insulate wood-burning stoves as well as
oil, coal, and wood furnaces. Usually
the asbestos is contained in cement
sheets, stiff paperboard, or  paper. Some
door gaskets in stoves, ovens, and
furnaces may also contain asbestos,
• Vinyl Floor Tiles and Vinyl Sheet
Flooring: Asbestos is often  found in
vinyl floor tiles and sheet flooring or
their backing. If the flooring is sanded
or cut to fit into place, or if old flooring
is removed and the surface beneath it is
sanded, fibers can be released into  the
air. To avoid  disturbing asbestos fibers
in existing flooring, it's best to place
new flooring material directly over the
• Patching Compounds and Textured
Paint: Homes built or renovated before
1975 may have patching compounds or
textured paints with asbestos applied on
wall or ceiling joints. If these materials
are in good condition, it's best to leave
them untouched. No patching
compounds or textured paint should be
sanded or scraped unless lab tests have
confirmed  them  to be free of asbestos.
• Walls and  Ceilings: In rare instances,
private homes may have asbestos
material sprayed or troweled on walls or
ceilings, although this is much  more
likely to be found in large offices or
apartment  buildings built before 1973.
Leave it undisturbed unless it shows
signs of deterioration.

 • Roofing, Shingles, and Siding:
Asbestos-containing portland cement
has sometimes been used to bind
roofing and siding shingles. Since
roofing and shingling are outdoors,
intact materials  pose minimal risk to
building occupants; roofers who remove
shingles, however, may experience a
significant health threat unless they  use
proper procedures for handling
asbestos-containing materials.
Homeowners should avoid cutting,
sanding, or scoring materials, although
worn or damaged siding should be
painted to  seal in fibers that might
otherwise escape.

  What to  do if  you suspect there's
asbestos in your home?
   The first thing is to call EPA's TSCA
(Toxic Substances Control Act)
Assistance Office at the toll-free number
(800) 424-9065 (554-1404 in the District
of Columbia). They'll be glad to send a
free packet including an asbestos fact
sheet; a copy of a booklet called
"Asbestos  in the Home"; and a report
titled "Guidance for Controlling
Asbestos-Containing Materials  in
Buildings." The TSCA Assistance Office
can also refer you to the Regional
Asbestos Coordinator (RAC) in the
nearest EPA  regional office. The RAC
offices are staffed by technical  experts,

architects, and engineers who have
extensive practical experience with
asbestos problems. In addition, many
states now have licensing requirements
for asbestos contractors. RACs can refer
you to state contacts who can provide a
list of licensed contractors.
  For a thorough inspection of your
living quarters, however, you'd better
get some expert assistance.
  Your local health department might
inspect your home for free, or at least
refer you to specially trained inspectors
you can hire to do the job.
  But, whoever does the work, you
must remember that visual inspection
alone is insufficient to identify asbestos.
Laboratory analysis using polarized light
microscopy is the only positive method
of identification. Costs currently range
from $20 to $50 per sample, and often
several  siimples are required to confirm
the presence of asbestos.

  Samples  must be collected in a way
that protects the health of the sampler
and ensures validity. The proper
sampling procedures are spelled out in
EPA's report, "Asbestos in Buildings:
Simplified  Sampling Scheme for Friable
Surfacing Materials." If you're looking
for a qualified laboratory near you, you
can call another EPA toll-free number
for help: (800) 334-8571, extension
  If action  must be taken to abate
asbtistos, it should only be done by a
trained  and qualified contractor. Home
repair contractors are usually not
experienced in the proper procedures
for handling asbestos. A good abatement
contractor will:

• Seal off the work area from the rest of
the home with plastic sheeting and duct
tape, and make sure not to track
asbesios dust throughout the house;
• Always wear a respirator, protective
gloves,  and other protective clothing.
Clothing should be disposed of as
asbestos waste immediately after use.
Clothing that cannot be thrown away
should  be washed separately from other
• Always wet asbestos-containing
material before working with it. Wet
asbestos fibers do not float in the air as
readily as dry fibers, and are therefore
easier to capture and dispose of;
• Avoid breaking asbestos-containing
material into small pieces, which are
more likely to release breathable fibers
into the air;
•  Place any debris from the work in 6-
millimeter plastic trash bags and follow
the instructions of the local health
 Asbestos-coated hot water piping in a
 residential basement.

department for disposing of it in an
approved landfill.  The contractor should
take care not to break the bag;

• Be sure not to dust or sweep particles
suspected of  containing asbestos, since
this  will disturb microscopic fibers and
make them airborne. The fibers are so
small that they cannot be seen. They
can pass through normal vacuum
cleaner filters and  get back into the air.
Dust should be removed  by wet
mopping and  the use of High Efficiency
Particulate Apparatus (HEPA) vacuum

 • Thoroughly clean the work area twice
with wet mops, wet rags, or sponges,
and  be sure that no fibers are tracked
into  other areas of  the home. All
cleaning equipment should be disposed
of in the same trash bags containing the
asbestos materials.

  It  is important to find a contractor
who conscientiously follows these safe
work practices. In  an effort to increase
the numbers and availability of
responsible contractors, EPA is
encouraging all states to adopt
certification programs ensuring that all
asbestos abatement contractors are
licensed to perform their work correctly.
  Last year, EPA awarded grants to 12
states to support contractor certification
programs, and this year plans awards  to
an additional 20 states. Partly as a result
oi this funding, 13 states now operate
their own certification  programs, and  an
additional 17  have certification bills
either passed or pending in their
legislatures. These states maintain lists
of licensed contractors and make the
lists available to the public.
  Last year, EPA also opened three
national training centers at Tufts
University, Georgia Institute of
Technology, and the University  of
Kansas. So far.  these centers have
instructed over 1,500 people, including
contractors, building owners and
managers, maintenance workers, school
officials, architects, and consultants in
various aspects of  asbestos
identification, maintenance, and control.
Because of their success, EPA plans to
open two more centers this year, one at
the University of Illinois in Chicago and
another at the University of California  at
Berkeley. In addition, four satellite
centers will open late this spring to
train contractors in proper abatement
techniques. These  will be located at
Drexel University  in Philadelphia,
Rutgers Medical School in New  Jersey,
the University of Texas at Arlington,
and the University of Utah in  Salt Lake
   In January of this year, EPA also
proposed to ban five specific asbestos
products for which there are adequate
substitutes, and to phase out the use
and  importation of all other
asbestos-containing products over the
next 10 years. The ban will immediately
prohibit the further sale and use in the
U.S. of five products,  the first  three of
which are used mainly in the
construction and renovation industry:
(1) saturated and unsaturated roofing
felt;  (2) flooring felt and  asbestos
felt-backed sheet flooring; (3)
vinyl-asbestos floor tile; (4)
asbestos-cement pipe and fittings; and
(5) asbestos clothing.   While  EPA is
not attempting  to downplay the
essential danger of inhaled asbestos, the
Agency urges citizens not to let fear
propel them into hasty and
ill-conceived actions.  When
asbestos-containing materials are in
good condition, the most appropriate
action is to periodically inspect  the
materials for signs of damage or
deterioration. If deterioration or  damage
is minor or localized, such simple steps
as enclosing or repairing the material
may be adequate. Only when
asbestos-containing material is
deteriorating over  a broad area, or when
it is likely to be disturbed by repair or
renovation, should removal be
considered, and then only by a trained
  Approached with knowledge and
caution, asbestos in any home can be
safely brought under control,  Q
                                                                    EPA JOURNAL

A review of recent major EPA
activities and developments
in the pollution control
program areas
Standards for Industrial
The Agency has proposed
new rules under the Clean
Air Act requiring reductions
of sulfur  dioxide emissions
for new or modified
industrial boilers.
  The proposed rules require
that new  or modified steam
generating units larger than
29 megawatts (100 million
Btu/hour) achieve a 90
percent reduction in sulfur
dioxide emission.
  EPA rules are expected to
apply primarily to industrial
boilers but would include the
largest institutional and
commercial boilers and the
smallest utility boilers.
  The 90 percent reduction
standard  represents the
performance capabilities of
demonstrated control
technologies over the 30 day
averaging time of the

                              Firm Indicted
                              A Pennsylvania firm and two
                              of its officials have been
                              indicted in connection with
                              the storage and transportation
                              of hazardous waste in
                              south central Kentucky. The
                              investigation was conducted
                              by the EPA Office of Criminal
                              Investigation in Region  4.
                                RAD Services Inc., Arthur
                              J. Sciullo,  Executive Vice
                              President,  and  George R.
                              Gary, head of the Chemicals
                              Division, were indicted on
                              five counts by a federal grand
                              jury. According to U.S.
                              Attorney Joseph Wittle, RAD
                              illegally stored thousands of
                              tons of hazardous waste in a
                              Bowling Green warehouse,
                              between 1980 and 1983,
                              without notifying the EPA.
                              The material was emission
                              control dust, a byproduct of
                              air pollution control devices
                              in steel mills.
                                The investigation was
                              prompted  by complaints from
                              residents of Rutherford
                              County who became
                              suspicious of late-night
                              dumping in 1983.
 Superfund Priority List
 EPA has added 170
 hazardous waste sites to its
 final Superfund National
 Priorities List (NPL), making
 them eligible for long-term
 action under the Superfund
 site cleanup program.
  The Agency also proposed
 45  sites for the priority list.
 The proposed sites are
 subject to a 60-day public
 comment period and could
 be  added at a later date.
  With these additions, there
 are now 703 sites on the final
 NPL and 185 proposed sites.
 EPA deleted eight sites from
 the final NPL on March 7,
 1986, since work on those
 sites had been completed.
Dicofol Registration
EPA announced its decision
to cancel the registration of
the pesticide dicofol unless
certain modifications are
made to reduce significantly
the levels of DDT and related
contaminants in this product.
  EPA is requiring two kinds
of modifications to the
dicofol registration. First, the
levels of  DDT allowed in
dicofol will be reduced in
two stages. There  will be an
initial and immediate
reduction to less than  2.5
percent DDTr (DDT and
related derivatives including
DDD, DDE and,
contamination in the
technical-grade compound.
After December 31, 1988, all
technical-grade dicofol
products  offered for sale
must contain less  than 0.1
percent DDTr. The second
modification requires the
registrants of dicofol to
include a warning statement
on labels of all products
stating that loaders and
applicators of the chemical
should wear impervious
Information on Commercial
The Agency has issued a
final rule requiring chemical
manufacturers and importers
to report current production
and plant-site information on
thousands of commercial
  The new rule requires
companies  to report to EPA
every four years beginning
this year.
  This  rule requires the first
substantial  update of
production and plant-site
data for chemicals listed on
EPA's chemical substances
inventory. EPA will collect
the latest information on
chemicals in the current
inventory on a plant-by-plant
basis, including each
chemical's  identity, whether
the firm is a manufacturer or
importer, whether or not use
of the substance is limited to
the site where it is
manufactured, how much is
produced, the plant's
technical contact, and
whether any of the
information is confidential.

                                                          Research Burn Permit
                                                          EPA's Assistant
                                                          Administrator for Water,
                                                          Lawrence J. Jensen, has
                                                          denied the application by
                                                          Chemical Waste
                                                          Management, Inc., for a
                                                          research permit to conduct
                                                          ocean incineration of toxic
                                                            Jensen said that his review
                                                          of public comments and the
                                                          hearing officer's
                                                          recommendations had loci
                                                          him to conclude that it was
                                                          not necessary to  conduct the
                                                          research burn at  this time.
                                                            Chemical Waste
                                                          Management had planned to
                                                          conduct the research burn
                                                          using the Vulcanus II, a
                                                          special incinerator ship. The
                                                          permit proposed burning
                                                          708,958 gallons of fuel oil
                                                          containing 10 to  30 percent
                                                          polychlorinated biphenyls
                                                          (PCBs) at sea  approximately
                                                          140 miles east of Cape May,
                                                          NJ. c

Thoimis L. Adams, /r,
Hobie G. Kussdl
          Douglas D. Campt
Thomas L. Adams Jr. has been
nominated to be Assistant Administrator
for EPA's Office of Enforcement and
Compliance Monitoring. Adams will be
responsible for judicial enforcement
actions against violators of federal
environmental  laws and for maintaining
national consistency in the enforcement
of the civil and criminal laws and
  Since 15)83 Adams served a.s the EPA
Deputy General Counsel for Regional
Coordination. From 1977 to 1983 he
was assistant director for governmental
relations for Republic Steel Corp. Prior
to that he served for two years as
assistant general counsel for the Federal
Trade Commission and earlier as
minority counsel for the Senate
Commerce Committee's Subcommittee
on Environment and Consumer Affairs.
  Adams is a graduate of the University
of Virginia and the Vanderbilt
University School of Law.

Robie G. Russell has been  named EPA's
Regional Administrator for the Pacific
Xuithwest Region (Region  10).
  Russell has served  as Senior Deputy
Attorney Ceneral for the state of Idaho
since 198 I. As  chief of the local
government division, he has dealt with
a broad range of issues including land
use, elections, local government law,
disaster planning, public meetings and
records,  and Indian  law. lie was Idaho
Deputy Attorney Ceneral and acting
chief of the  natural resources division
from 1979 to 1981.
  Russell received a bachelor's degree
in political science from the University
of Idaho in  1973. Me received  a law
degree from the University of Idaho in
          Lee DeHihns formerly the Associate
          Ceneral Counsel for Crants, Contracts
          and General Law, will become the new
          Deputy Regional Administrator in
          Region 4.
            DeHihns, who has been with EPA
          since 1974, brings to this position an
          outstanding professional reputation.
          DeHihns has served at his present
          position since 1982. He previously
          served as an Attorney for the Office of
          the General Counsel, Acting Regional
          Counsel for Region 5, and Special
          Assistant to the Deputy Administrator.
            DeHihns has received EPA's Bronze
          Medal and EPA's Special Achievement
          Award.  He received his B.S.  degree from
          the University of Scranton and his J.I).
          from the Columbus School of Law,
          Catholic University of America.
          Douglas D. Campt has been appointed
          to be Director of EPA's Office of
          Pesticide Programs (OPP). He previously
          served as director of the Registration
          Division in OPP. Campt has been with
          EPA since 1970, serving as the
          Associate Director for Registration and
          Compliance, and as Program
          Management Officer. Prior to joining
          EPA, he was the head of the
          Registration Review Section, Assistant
          Chief of the Registrations  Branch, and a
          Plant Quarantine Inspector at the
          Department of Agriculture.
           Campt is a graduate of North Carolina
          Central University with a  degree in
          biology. D
Performance Awards

Administrator Lee M. Thomas has
presented awards to nine members of
EPA management for "unusually
outstanding" performance. These
awards are made annually to (host;
employees in the Performance
Management and Recognition System
whose job performance results in major
progress toward Agency objectives.
  The following persons received

  Gary A. Amendola, Supervisory
Environmental  Engineer, Environmental
Services Division, Region 5.

  Kathleen C. Callahan, Deputy
Director, Office of Policy and
Management, Region 2.

  Thomas B. DeMoss, Director,
Technical Support Division. Office of
Marine and  Estuarine Protection.
  John A. Edwardson, Chief.
Superfund/'RCRA Branch, Budget
Division, Office of the Comptroller.

  Chester J.  France, Chief, Standards
Development and Support Branch,
Motor Vehicle Emissions Lab, Ann
  Denise M. Keehner, Chief, Regulatory
Section, Exposure Evaluation Division,
Office of Toxic Substances.

  Walter E. Mugdan, Deputy Regional
Counsel, Office of Regional Counsel,
Region 2.

  Oilman D. Veith, Associate Director
for Research Operations, Environmental
Research Laboratory, Duluth.

  Thomas C. Voltaggio, Chief,
Superfund Branch, Hazardous Waste
Management Division, Region 3.
                                                                                                    EPA JOURNAL

KathJeen Varaday inspects (ho ciir pump
system attached to her home in
Boyertown, FA. The system helps to
ventilate radon from her home.
                                                                              Back COVKF: Sailing, Photo by John
                                                                              Bosvden, Folio, inc.

United States
Environmental Protection
Washington DC 20460
Official Business
Penalty for Private Use S300
Third-Class Bulk
Postage and Fees Paid
Permit No. G-35
                                                                 v i