Monday, April 18, 2016

The Radon and Remediation Industries

One of the fascinating features of the free market is an almost instant appearance of entrepreneurs to fill a perceived need. Whether it is someone to build a skyscraper, supply illegal drugs, produce a million automobiles or a pornographic Mother's Day card - where there's a market, someone will appear to satisfy it. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that you "fix the home if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter or higher," it didn't take long for the "fixers" to step forward. Not just the fixers either; someone had to measure the radon, someone else had to build the instrumentation, others had to process the canisters, and still others had to evaluate the whole process. Soon an entire industry was created - and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. It's what we often term "the American way."

Because of their common interest, some of the parties involved in radon detection and remediation (mostly small businesses) joined together in an organization - the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, Inc. (AARST) - and there certainly isn't anything wrong with that, either. But let us look at a little problem caused by the inherent ability of human beings to rationalize when their personal interests are at stake. Would the four or five hundred members of the AARST applaud an investigation to determine whether residential radon is actually a danger - or that it might possibly be a bio-positive agent for human health? Some probably would, and might then turn their attention to ways to get more radon in the residences, but most - I suspect - would do all in their power to prevent any such investigation.

So here we have a case where a few thousand highly motivated protectors of the status quo might be able to thwart an investigation that could be highly beneficial to hundreds of millions of uninformed - indeed, unaware - citizens. This is the basic reason that science, when politicized, is no longer science at all - but merely an extension of actions that enrich one group at the expense of another.