Radon Scientists Call on EPA Administrator Whitman to Act Decisively Ė 1800 Deaths A Month From Radiation Exposure
Demand that HUD be accountable and act in compliance with existing indoor radon laws and regulations: here is your chance to write EPA Administrator, Christine Todd Whitman. Christine T. Whitman, Administrator 1101A U.S. EPA Headquarters 1101A Ariel Rios Building 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20460 Re: Please enforce the Stewart B. Mckinney Amendments of the 1988 Indor Radon Abatement Act under the authority of U.S.C 2670. Dear Administrator Whitman, I am writing to request your authoritative action under the statutes cited above to require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to comply with existing laws and regulations with regard to indoor radon. HUDís current radon policy (or lack of one) clearly defies the will of Congress set forth by specific legislation to protect citizens from this Class-A carcinogen estimated to cause 22,000 U.S. lung cancer deaths annually. For 15 years, HUD has not only ignored the legislation, officials have repeatedly lied to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives when their failure to act on the matter was questioned. Based on recent correspondence to and from HUD officials, it is obvious that the Department is still committed to a policy of defiance; the only way compliance will ever become reality is for Congress and EPA to enforce the law. The following is an abbreviated account of the situation for which we request your assistance: As you know, in 1988, the President signed 42 U.S.C. 7412, The Indoor Radon Abatement Act, as codified at 15 U.S.C. 2661, and amended by the McKinney Amendments. It states the nationís policy on radon and provides that "the air within buildings in the United States be as free from radon as the ambient air outside of buildings." In order to implement the national radon policy, the Act specifically requires that HUD: (a)(1) . . . Develop an effective departmental policy for dealing with radon contamination that utilizes any Environmental Protection Agency guidelines and standards to ensure that occupants of housing covered by this section are not exposed to hazardous levels of radon; (a)(2) . . . Assist the Environmental Protection Agency in reducing radon contamination; (b)(2) . . . Develop and recommend to the Congress a policy for dealing with radon contamination that specifies programs for education, research, testing, and mitigation of radon hazards in housing covered by this section. Despite the requirements of the McKinney Amendments, the housing covered by the Act has still not been tested. HUDís ongoing defiance of the legislation began early on. A May 1991 GAO Report to the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Ocean and Water Protection and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, entitled "Radon Testing in Federal Buildings Needs Improvement and HUDís Radon Policy Needs Strengthening," details HUDís failure to develop an effective radon policy as required, and thus directs HUD and EPA to develop a cooperative approach to develop a policy that addresses testing and mitigation as required by the Stewart B. McKinney Amendments to the Homeless Assistance Act and the Indoor Radon Abatement Act of 1988. Governor, forty-three Americans are dying every day from radon induced lung cancer. Dr. Lane B. Price, a prominent doctor of oncology in Decatur, Alabama, recently stood up at a town meeting where a proposal for radon resistant building features in the local code was about to be defeated by pressure from local home builders. She said, "Today I signed 4 deaths certificates for lung cancer victims. Two of them never smoked. Now when are we going to do something about this?" I ask you the same question. Based on many recent Congressional responses from HUD, the Department still has no intention of following the law and taking action to reduce the risk of radon exposure. It is extremely difficult to convince the general public about the importance of having their homes tested when the nationís leading housing agency refuses to seriously address the concern as required by law. I respectfully request you use your administrative power to take immediate action on the following: 1. Take the necessary steps to enforce HUD compliance with the 1988 Indoor Radon Abatement act and the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Amendments Act. 2. Fully investigate and report to Congress on the remaining risk of radon exposure after the Clean Air Act standards have been implemented and the public health significance of that risk. Specifically report how easily the problem would be eliminated if HUD were to require all applicants for government insured mortgages to test and mitigate if levels exceed EPAís 4 pCi/l Action Level. 3. Be prepared to testify at a Senate Committee hearing to address HUDís defiance of federal legislation and outline what specific measures HUD will be required to implement to "assist EPA in reducing radon contamination." Governor Whitman, I thank you for your thoughtfulness and the time you will take in addressing this important matter. I know that your leadership on radon policy will be recognized and will be appreciated by Americans throughout the nation -- and, most important, it will save many lives.