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Alabama's Doug Jones joins congressional push for HUD radon action after Oregonian investigation

Date Published: 01/29/2020 [Source]

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Wednesday joined the growing list of federal lawmakers calling for radon protections in public housing following a yearlong investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

In a letter to Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Jones called the newsroom's investigation troubling and alarming.

"Given the troubling results of this investigation, HUD should make every effort to ensure public housing across the country is tested for radon and, if found, also mitigated expeditiously," Jones wrote.

Jones' letter to Carson comes two weeks after a bipartisan group of 10 senators, led by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, pressed Carson to protect tenants from radon exposure. Jones is now the 15th federal lawmaker to publicly call for money or action to address the problems disclosed by the newsroom's "Cancer Cloud" investigation.

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in America and is estimated to kill 21,000 people annually. Congress in 1988 required HUD to protect tenants in public housing from hazardous levels of exposure. But HUD does not require testing and waited until 2013 to "strongly encourage" local housing authorities to check for the gas.

The newsroom's investigation surveyed 64 housing authorities nationwide, finding that fewer than one in three could produce radon testing records. The Huntsville Housing Authority in Alabama was among those that could not document testing results, although officials said they tested apartments in the 1990s.

Teaming with The Oregonian/OregonLive on the investigation, reporters for AL.com tested a sampling of public housing units in Huntsville. Reporters found seven units with high radon. After retesting, the average results in three units were still high enough that radon professionals would recommend a removal system.

"HUD must ensure Americans living in federally subsidized housing are free from the risks posed by high radon levels," Jones wrote, asking for a timely response from Carson.

As of Wednesday, Carson had yet to respond to the group of 10 senators who two weeks ago requested a meeting to discuss radon hazards.