July 10, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

On July 7, 2021, the Maine Senate enacted and funded a bill from Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor. LD 819, “An Act To Reduce Lung Cancer Rates in Maine by Requiring Testing For and Mitigation of Radon in Residential Buildings by Landlords,” would reduce lung cancer rates in Maine by creating a voluntary program for landlords and other homeowners to receive incentives to test their buildings for radon more frequently.

“The program will create financial incentives for property owners to get testing and mitigation done and to publicly recognize and award Gold Standard status to those that participate. This is the first major action by the State of Maine to even address radon since 2014,” said Sen. Baldacci. “In addition to that, Maine has high rates of cancer deaths and new lung cancer cases in comparison with the rest of the country. This bill places stricter precautions in residential buildings that can keep Mainers safe and give them some extra peace of mind. I look forward to working with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the state Radon office to implement this Gold Standard Testing and Mitigation program.”

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that may be found in high concentrations in indoor environments, such as homes and workplaces. It is a known carcinogen and is linked to lung cancer when people are exposed to certain amounts of the gas.

As amended, this bill establishes the Maine Gold Standard for Radon Testing and Mitigation Initiative within the Department of Health and Human Services to reward, recognize, promote and assist, with a gold standard designation, landlords, homeowners and home builders who participate in radon testing and mitigation activities.

Radon is estimated to cause about 14,000 deaths per year nationally, and about 165 deaths per year in Maine.

Radon can be found in elevated levels—greater than 4 pCi/l anywhere in the state.  Maine’s average residential radon level is 4.1 pCi/l, and higher in the southern portion of the state.

Over the past decade, there have been several very good epidemiological studies of people exposed to radon in their homes showing an increased risk of lung cancer.