Nebraska has one of the worst radon emission rates in the country and the Unicameral is considering a bill that could eventually lead to all new homes in the state being built with radon-resistant measures.
Senator Bob Krist of Omaha authored the legislation. “This sets up a task force which will work on the issue of radon-resistant construction standards over the next year and then make recommendations back to us in the legislature in December,” Krist says. “These recommendations would then be used as a basis of statutory changes I would introduce to be taken up in the 2016 legislative session.”
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is the third-leading cause of cancer in Nebraska, behind smoking and second-hand smoke.
Krist first introduced legislation addressing radon levels in 2013, at the urging of the American Cancer Society. A state study finds radon concentration is highest in eastern Nebraska counties, but Dan Holmquist, of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, says much of the state has unsafe radon levels.
Holmquist says, “Seventy-two of our 93 counties have radon concentrations in excess of the recommended 4.0 picocuries per liter action level, stated by the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Passive systems that remove radon gas from homes are estimated to cost about $250. More advanced active systems can run $800 to $1,000. Several states have laws that require radon resistance systems in new construction.
During a hearing before the Unicameral’s Health and Human Services Committee, only one opponent spoke out about Krist’s bill. Allen Steiner of Waverly says the choice should be left up to the homeowner. “I will always respect the right of my fellow citizens to build or to buy a new home with radon mitigation,” Steiner says. “All I ask today is that my fellow citizens do not take away my right to build or buy a new home without radon mitigation.”
Several counties in southeast Nebraska radon levels that are considered higher than safe. The two with the highest concentration levels are Johnson and Nemaha.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice