Radon cancer claim just more scaremongering by activists

May 13th, 2015

Lock The Gate activists have again jumped headlong into scaremongering by repeating claims linking lung cancer to hydraulic fracturing in the USA.

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One Lock the Gate supporter even went so far as to use a Facebook comment to accuse the Government here of creating a “holocaust”.

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While the insensitivity of that comment is bad enough; it goes beyond the pale when you realise there’s actually no substance to the underlying claim.

It is reminiscent of a similar baseless scare claim about use of an engineering radioisotope that we’ve written about previously.

In this latest case of overblown anti-science, Lock the Gate cites an American  study that attempts to create a link between natural gas fracking and above average readings for radon – a “cancer-causing radioactive gas” in urban buildings in Pennsylvania.  Because water sources for the buildings could be traced back to gas producing areas, this meant that fracking was to blame for the “cancer link”, the study found.

Unfortunately for the credibility of the report authors, authorities had already looked into the question of any health issues associated with the above-average radon readings, and found NO health risks and NO links to anything other than natural geological causes.

Elevated levels of radon have long been evident in parts of Pennsylvania, and are the reason why bodies including the State Department of Environmental Protection continue to take air and water readings in buildings and homes.

In January the DEP announced results of its TENORM study, which analysed naturally occurring levels of radioactivity, concluding there was little potential for harm to workers or the public.

It noted that the elevated radon levels were among the highest in the USA, but that this had been the case since monitoring commenced in the 1980s – decades  before the shale oil and gas boom kicked off in Pennsylvania.  And there was little chance of increased risk caused by the incidence of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas, the DEP found.

The weak basis of the supposed “cancer link” was evident by the admission in the study that no measurements had been taken in the actual gas-producing areas.  And by the acknowledgement that Pennsylvania’s highest radon levels occur in two counties where there is NO gas production.

 

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