WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it wants to bring radon, a radioactive gas believed to kill thousands of people every year, under its drinking water purity regulations.
Radon dissolved in water and liberated to the air through faucets, showers, laundries and other household activities probably accounts for 30 to 600 deaths from lung cancer each year, a small fraction of the 5,000 to 20,000 such deaths estimated to originate with radon arising directly out of the soil and concentrating in houses, officials told a news conference.
In some New England communities, radon originating in the water could account for 50% of a home's radon concentrations, they said.
Radon originates in the radioactive decay of radium, itself formed in the chain of elements that originate with the decay of natural uranium. The gas is inert and decays in a few days, but the radioactive elements it forms, notably polonium, can lodge on dust particles and be carried into the lung to remain for years.