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Radon Research Typifies Challenges Facing Risk Assessment

Sidebar: Gauging the Dangers of Radon Blame the radon fuss on Stanley Watras. In 1984, the young engineer was leaving work at the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant in Pottstown, Pa., when he set off the radiation alarm. Safety officials were perplexed. They could find no leak in the new facility. No other workers were contaminated. Yet when Watras walked past the radiation checkpoint on his way home, the siren began to sound. Safety officials solved the mystery by taking radiation readings at the

Tom Abate

Sidebar: Gauging the Dangers of Radon

Blame the radon fuss on Stanley Watras. In 1984, the young engineer was leaving work at the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant in Pottstown, Pa., when he set off the radiation alarm. Safety officials were perplexed. They could find no leak in the new facility. No other workers were contaminated. Yet when Watras walked past the radiation checkpoint on his way home, the siren began to sound.

Safety officials solved the mystery by taking radiation readings at the Watras home in Boyerstown, Pa. What they discovered sounded a national alarm.

Watras, his wife, and their two sons were living over a crack in the earth's crust that acted like a natural chimney, filling their home with radon, a gas that is a byproduct of the decay of uranium and radium underground (see accompanying story). Radon is not itself radioactive. But upon entering the atmosphere, the...

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