There's a disturbingarticlein the South Jersey section of today's Inquirer about how the state is ineffectively handling the levels of cancer-causing radon in our drinking water. The article points out that in some communities, the level of this carcinogen in drinking water is 25 times more than that deemed "safe" by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). And this so-called "safe" level is set at a point where "an additional 1 in 2000 people would develop cancer over a lifetime of exposure." Let's do a back-of the envelope calculation: The population of New Jersey is 8.7 million. I don't know how many people live in the Garden State all their lives - so just for argument's sake let's say half of them - 4.35 million. So if 1 in 2000 would develop cancer over their lifetime, that's an "acceptable "rate of almost 2200 cancer cases due to radon in the drinking water.
Radon occurs naturally, so it is inevitable that people will be exposed to this toxic gas. But the technology exists to mitigate its effects by filtering it out of the water supply. According to the article, it would cost only $79 million over 20 years to make drinking water safe for the sixty percent of New Jerseyans who get their water from river sources - peanuts compared to the tax break that our Governor gave to millionaires. Filtration systems for homes that get their water from wells could cost up to $5000 - less than the medical care for cancer treatment.
So a decade after this problem has been identified, how is the state responding? They are "analyzing" the data! Governor Christie and his Evian-drinking cronies are no friend of the environment, so don't look for leadership from his office to address the problem. Fortunately, radon - unlike other nasty stuff that pollutes the environment - has no lobby, so there's a chance that progress can be made in cleaning up this toxin.
I'm glad that the Inquirer devoted space to this issue, but like other stories in this short attention span society, it will be stale and forgotten by this time tomorrow - only to be recognized by those families whose loved ones succumb to radon poisoning. It is up to us to bring this to the forefront and ensure our legislators are aware of the problem that impacts all of us - and they take action.