The Development of Radon Mitigation in the U.S.

Knowing the history of radon helps us understand its importance and why groups like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have prioritized the reduction of unsafe radon levels. Frederich Enst Dorn is credited for the discovery of radon back in 1900. The interest in radioactive atoms and radium decay products used to treat lung cancer is what drove this discovery. Not too long after Dorn’s initial discovery, more chemists continued adding to his work by isolating radon and discovering its atomic weight, giving it its atomic number and symbol (Rn, 86), and figuring out its boiling and freezing temperatures. 

The gas’s correlation to lung cancer became more relevant in the 1940’s when large amounts of Uranium miners started developing lung cancer. As we know, radon gas comes from the decay of uranium, so these incidents make sense in retrospect. However, it wasn’t until decades later where elevated levels of radon started becoming more of a concern for average citizens in their natural environments. 

Pennsylvania and Virginia specifically contained geological structures known as the Redding Prong and the Triassic Basin where there are high densities of uranium deposits. By the 1980’s more houses started to be built over the top of these underground structures. Upon this real estate expansion came what is known as the Stanley Wartas tale, which was a pivotal event in accelerating the awareness and need for radon mitigation, as well as creating the Radon Mitigation Industry. 

Stanley Wartas was an engineer for a nuclear power plant in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Although the plant was under construction and did not contain any radioactive fuel, which could potentially leave a harmful residue on plant employees and make it unsafe for them to expose themselves to others, the plant installed a radiation detector at the facility. One day, Mr. Stanley Wartas came to the plant and single handedly set off the detector. This was odd, because since the plant was under construction, there weren’t any radioactive elements being emitted at the plant to land on the employees. This eventually led to investigations of Wartas’s environment outside the plant, which would then lead to his home. After radon levels in his home were tested, levels were discovered to be over 700x the action levels (the equivalent to smoking 200 packs of cigarettes a day). 

Since this 1984 episode, groups like the EPA and the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) have taken the initiative to develop programs to support keeping citizens safe from high levels of radon in their immediate environment. Even with the rise in radon mitigation programs, some real estate professionals have failed to regard this as a priority in real estate transactions. American Radon is here to install radon reduction systems in buildings and homes to prevent the harmful long term effects radon could cause.


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