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UToledo research links fracking to higher radon levels in Ohio homes



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IMAGE: This is a map showing the distribution of 1,162 fracking wells in Ohio.
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Credit: University of Toledo

A new study at the University of Toledo links the proximity of fracking to higher household concentrations of radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States

] Measurement and geocoding Of data from 1

18,421 homes across all 88 counties in Ohio between 2007 and 2014, scientists found that closer distances to the 1,162 fracking wells are associated with higher indoor radon concentrations.

"The shorter the distance a home is from a fracking well, the higher the radon concentration. The greater the distance, the lower the radon concentration," Dr. said. Ashok Kumar, professor of distinguished university and chair of the UToledo Department of Civil and Environmental Technology.

The study also found that the average radon concentrations among all tested homes across the state are higher than safe levels outlined by U.S. Pat. Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization standards. The average is 5.76 pCi / l, while the EPA threshold is 4.0 pCi / l. The postal code 43557 in the city of Stryker has the highest radon concentration of 141.85 pCi / l for this data set.

"We are concerned about air quality", Dr. Yanqing Xu, assistant professor of the UToledo Department of Geography and Planning, said. "Our motivation is to save Ohio's life. I hope this eye-opening research inspires families across the state to act and have their homes tested for radon and, if necessary, install mitigation systems to protect their loved ones." [19659005] The results of the study were recently published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health . The research is a collaboration between UToledo's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Geography and Planning. The Radon data collection was supported by grants from the Ohio Department of Health and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Radon, which cannot be smelled or seen, begins as uranium found naturally in soil, water and rocks, but is converted into gas as it matures.

Fracking, or drilling of rock formation via hydraulic fracture, stimulates the natural gas flow. In Ohio, natural gas is available in deposits of the old Marcellus and Utica shales.

Most fracking wells are located in eastern Ohio, while Athens County has the highest number of fracking wells with 108. Fulton County is the only county with more than 20 fracking wells in western Ohio.

The researchers used data from the publicly available Ohio Radon Information System (ORIS), which the UToledo Institute of Civil and Environmental Technology began to develop more than 25 years ago and maintains the public knowledge of indoor radon concentration. Licensed testers collect data each year in cellars and first floors of homes in Ohio's 1,496 postal codes.

"You can find the average radon concentration in your postcode on the website," says Kumar.

Xu, a health geographer who previously studied obesity, installed a radon control system after testing her home with a $ 10 kit.

"Slate is not in Toledo, but radon can get into homes due to uranium concentration in the soil, unrelated to fracking," Xu said. "My 2-year-old son likes to play in the basement, but the radon concentration is higher in the basement. I didn't hesitate even though the system cost about $ 1,000."

The data in the study is from self-reported units and not distributed anywhere in Ohio.

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