Children’s Environmental Health in Michigan

Childhood Cancer: Ionizing Radiation

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Ionizing radiation has been clearly linked to cancer, both in children and adults (Zahm & Devesa 1995). Children can be subject to prenatal ionizing radiation exposure resulting from diagnostic radiography of mothers during pregnancy, as well as to environmental sources of ionizing radiation (Clapp et al. 2005). Children may also be impacted by parental exposure to ionizing radiation prior to conception.

This section will briefly summarize ionizing radiation exposures and associated health effects, present leading policy practices from other states, and recommend steps to minimize childhood ionizing radiation exposure in Michigan.

Background Information

Sources and Routes of Exposure

Radiation is energy that is transferred through space or a specific type of medium. Sources of radiation include natural sources in the environment (e.g., solar radiation, cosmic rays, and radioactive elements), and anthropogenic sources (e.g., x-rays and radioisotopes produced using an accelerator) (EPA 2007e). Certain types of radiation energy— used in various military, industrial, and medical processes—can cause ionization - the release of electrons from the outer orbital shell of an atom (AAP 2003). This is referred to as ionizing radiation. Because it can cause changes in molecular composition, ionizing radiation can cause damage to living tissues and can result in cellular mutations.

Ionizing radiation exposure is often categorized as being either ‘high dose’ or ‘low dose’. Exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation can occur after an atomic bomb explosion, a nuclear power plant accident, or radiation therapy for cancer treatment. Sources of low dose ionizing radiation that children may be exposed to include: diagnostic radiographs, nuclear test fallout, proximity to nuclear facilities, prenatal exposure, and parental exposures occurring prior to conception (Buka et al. 2007).

One source of low-dose radiation that is of particular public health concern is radon, a gas produced by radium, which is a decay product of uranium (a naturally occurring element found in rocks and soils) (EPA 2007e). Radon further decays into a series of radioactive isotopes that may either attach to dust particles in the air or be inhaled directly (Axelson 1995). Radon can leak into homes through cracks in foundation, porous cinderblocks, and granite walls (AAP 2003). Radon concentrations vary geographically, and even may vary within or between homes that are in close proximity due to structural differences in buildings that influence ventilation (Axelson 1995). Radon can also dissolve in water, and the water may therefore serve as an exposure source or conduit (Axelson 1995).

The route of human exposure depends on the type of radiation, along with other factors. There are three major types of radiation: alpha-particles, beta-particles, and gamma rays (EPA 2007e). Alpha-particles cannot penetrate layers of skin, so inhalation or ingestion exposure routes are of primary concern when considering exposure to these particles (EPA 2007e). Although some beta-particles can penetrate further into the skin than alpha-particles, inhalation and ingestion are still the primary routes for exposure to beta-particles (EPA 2007e). Gamma rays, on the other hand, are similar to x-rays and can quickly penetrate the human body; therefore, any type of exposure to gamma rays can be hazardous (EPA 2007e).

Childhood Exposure to Radiation in the U.S.

The average annual exposure to ionizing radiation in the United States is 3.6 millisievert (or 0.36 rem) (AAP 2003) which is higher than the global annual average exposure of 2.4 millisievert (UN Scientific Committee 2000). A National Council on Radiation Exposure and Protection assessment of ionizing radiation exposure in the United States determined that approximately 55% of exposure is from radon, 27% is from other natural sources, 11% is from medical diagnostic procedures, 4% is from nuclear medicine (such as radiation for cancer treatment), and 3% is from other manmade sources including consumer products, the nuclear fuel cycle, occupational exposures, and fallout (NCRP 1987).

Childhood Exposure to Radiation in Michigan

In Michigan, several counties have average radon levels above 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L), the action level determined by the U.S. EPA (EPA 2007a). Homes that exceed this limit should be remediated to decrease health risk. Figure 1 classifies Michigan counties according to radon potential (EPA 2007a). While there are large-scale geographic patterns to radon concentrations; variations at the local level can be significant.

Figure 1. Geographical distribution of radon levels in Michigan (EPA 2007a).

Any nuclear power plant or nuclear storage facility can be a potential source of ionizing radiation, although under normal conditions, the amount of ionizing radiation exposure individuals in communities receive from nuclear power plants is very low (NRC 2011). Michigan has three operating nuclear power plant facilities: Donald C. Cook (Bridgman, MI), Fermi 2 (Monroe County, MI), and Palisades (near South Haven, MI).

There are seven facilities in Michigan that are no longer operating, and are either decommissioned or undergoing decommissioning: AAR Manufacturing, Inc. Site (Livonia, MI), Big Rock Point (Charlevoix, MI), Dow Chemical Company's Bay City Site (Bay City, MI), Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant (Unit 1) (Newport, MI), Ford Nuclear Reactor (Ann Arbor, MI), NWI Breckenridge (Breckenridge, MI), S.C. Holdings Site (Bay County, MI) (NRC 2007b). Children residing near these nuclear power plant facilities have the potential to be exposed to radiation as decommissioned plants can still be used to contain spent fuel rods (NRC 2011). Additionally, there is a dry cask storage facility in South Haven, MI, near the Palisades reactor that may also serve as an exposure source.

There has been no definitive link established between cancer development and proximity to nuclear power plants; however, some studies have found correlations between the two, and research is ongoing. In particular, the link between childhood leukemia and living near nuclear plants has been explored, with varying results. For example, while a study of a large cohort of German children found an association between living near nuclear plants and leukemia development (Kaatsch et al. 2008), studies in Britain and Finland found no such associations (Heinävaara et al. 2010; Bithell et al. 2008). A number of different hypotheses for this variation in results have been proposed which we will not go into depth on in this chapter, however there is no consensus on what mechanism might be the cause of the elevated leukemia rates around nuclear plants found in the German study (Zölzer 2010; Laurier et al. 2008). Notably, qZolzer (2010) notes that the measured doses of ionizing radiation exposure in the areas around the German nuclear power plants would need to be at least 1000 times higher in order for ionizing radiation to be the sole cause of the increased incidence of leukemia in the areas.

In the United States, a higher incidence of childhood cancer, especially leukemia, and higher infant mortality rates have been observed near nuclear power plants (M. In response to some of this controversy, in April 2010, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission asked the National Academy of Sciences to update a 1990 study of cancer risks near U.S. nuclear facilities (Wing et al. 2011).

The most recently published supplement to the Michigan Radiation Environmental Monitoring (MREMP) report, with data as recent as 2007,found no indication of any environmental health hazards in areas surrounding the four operating nuclear plants in Michigan, although elevated radiation levels were occasionally found on the properties of the plants (MDEQ 2008).

The studies listed above demonstrate the uncertainty of the notion that nuclear power plants can serve as a dangerous source of ionizing radiation exposure in communities surrounding the plants during normal operation.

In contrast, nuclear accidents, such as the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, which led to the radioactive contamination of large areas surrounding the site, have better-established links to the development of thyroid cancer in children and adolescents (Cardis and Hatch 2011). Because of this, close monitoring and regulation of nuclear plants is needed to ensure safe operation, and health risks to the public from existing nuclear power plants remain low.

Ionizing Radiation and Cancer

Ionizing radiation, though sometimes used in medical procedures and found in nature, can have deleterious health effects. The energy from ionizing radiation is deposited into body tissue where it can cause cell damage or cell death (EPA 2007e). The degree of damage depends on the dose, the duration of exposure, age of the individual exposed, and the tissues affected or exposed (EPA 2007e; Belson et al. 2007). Radiation exposure can damage DNA, leading to mutations which can eventually lead to cancer (EPA 2007e). In fact, ionizing radiation (including X-rays, gamma-rays, and neutrons) is officially classified as carcinogenic to humans (IARC 2000). By damaging DNA in reproductive (sperm and egg) cells, exposure to ionizing radiation can result in genetic mutations that can be passed on to offspring; although the ability for these mutations to occur is well-established, as of yet there is no solid research to support the association between preconception exposure to ionizing radiation and increased cancer risk in children; the potential links are discussed in the section below this (EPA 2007e; Sadetzki and Flint-Richter, 2006).

Radiation exposure, like many environmental exposures, can be classified as acute or chronic; the resulting health effects are dependent on this duration of exposure. Acute exposure to ionizing radiation is often the result of a dramatic accident or medical treatment and can cause radiation sickness, hair loss, and even death (EPA 2007e, AAP 2003). Delayed effects of radiation exposure occur through mutagenesis (causing mutations in DNA), teratogenesis (causing malformations of an embryo or fetus), and carcinogenesis (cancer development, the focus of this chapter) (Ritenour 1986).

Prenatal Exposure and Childhood Cancer

Childhood exposure to ionizing radiation can cause cancer during childhood or later in life, depending on the latency period of the cancer (Buka et al. 2007). For example, exposure to ionizing radiation is a well-recognized cause of leukemia. Prenatal exposure to ionizing radiation through maternal diagnostic testing is thought to increase the risk of childhood cancer by 6% per gray (radiation energy absorbed per kilogram) of exposure (Buka et al. 2007). However, the association between lower-level exposure to ionizing radiation prenatally and subsequent childhood cancer risk remains controversial. For example, one study demonstrated that twins exposed to diagnostic x-rays in utero had twice the risk of developing leukemia when compared with twins who were not x-rayed; on the other hand, babies born to atomic bomb survivors who were exposed during pregnancy showed no increased risk of developing cancer (Zahm & Devesa 1995; Izumi et al, 2003). In addition, maternal occupational exposure to ionizing radiation has not been associated with childhood leukemia (Belson et al. 2007).

The risks of childhood cancer from radiation exposure may not be limited to the mother’s prenatal exposure. A number of studies have investigated “preconception paternal irradiation” or PPI, a father’s exposure to ionizing radiation in the workplace or a father’s exposure to radiation due to diagnostic x-rays prior to conception (Belson et al. 2007). These studies have demonstrated mixed results, and the relationship remains unclear (Belson et al. 2007). For example, one study reported increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia in children born to fathers who had been exposed to radionuclides—atoms with unstable nuclei, but not external radiation (Zahm, Devesa 1995).

Postnatal Exposure and Cancer Risk

The relationship between childhood exposure to high, acute doses of ionizing radiation and cancer risk has been clearly documented, and the biological mechanisms behind this relationship are well-understood. Young children exposed postnatally to high doses of ionizing radiation have an increased risk of leukemia (acute lymphoblastic leukemia—ALL, acute myelogenous leukemia—AML, and chronic myelogenous leukemia—CML), osteosarcoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma; these cancers may develop in childhood or later in life (Buka et al. 2007; Zahm, Devesa 1995; Farahati et al. 2000; Kerber et al. 1993). Sources of these high-dose exposures include exposure to radioactive isotopes, especially Iodine-131, and fallout from nuclear weapons testing (Kerber et al. 1993; Farahati et al. 2000; Zahm, Devesa 1995).

As with the prenatal exposures discussed above, the relationship between chronic exposure to lower-doses of radiation during childhood and cancer risk is less well-established (Zahm, Devesa 1995). Several studies have linked childhood cancer with proximity to nuclear facilities, although other studies suggest otherwise (Buka et al. 2007, Zahm, Devesa 1995). One major study in the United States concluded that radioactive emissions from nuclear facilities may account for approximately 1 in 9 childhood cancers occurring in children less than 10 years old who live within 48 kilometers of the facility (Magano et al. 2003). Younger children are more vulnerable to the radioactivity, and the risk for leukemia was the cancer risk most elevated in this study (Magano et al. 2003).

There is strong scientific evidence supporting a causal link between radon exposure and the development of lung cancer. Radon is second only to tobacco smoking as a cause of lung cancer cases, and the EPA estimates that radon exposure accounts for nearly 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States (EPA 2007e). Lung cancer, however, typically occurs in adults, although childhood exposure may be important. However, recent scientific studies have also given evidence to an association between residential radon exposure and childhood leukemia. Notably, a case-control study in Denmark of 9,097 children found a direct correlation between residential radon exposure and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) (Raaschou-Nielsen et al. 2008). Furthermore, some evidence suggests a link between residential radon exposure—and radon concentrations in household water—and childhood leukemia (Buka et al. 2007; Zahm, Devesa 1995). A review paper assessed a number of epidemiologic and biological studies and found that, in spite of difficulties in assessing radon exposure, there has been a consistent association found between residential radon exposure and an increased risk of childhood ALL (Tong et al. 2012). While they found that the link between radon exposure and childhood leukemia is biologically plausible, the authors of the study stressed that more research is needed to confirm this association (Tong et al. 2012).

There are shortcomings to the methods used in studies that assess radon exposure and cancer in children. . Of note, it tends to be particularly difficult in these sorts of studies to accurately measure lifetime exposure to radon (levels of which vary both temporally and spatially) (Axelson 1995). However, given the well-founded associations between lifetime radon exposure and lung cancer, policies that reduce exposure to radon are highly important measures in protecting the health of the public. Moreover, given the associations between other sources of ionizing radiation and cancer, policies to minimize other exposures to harmful levels of ionizing radiation are also important.

Policy Summary and Analysis

Radon (General)

Michigan Policy Highlights

  1. Michigan adopts International Residential Code (IRC) statewide. The state also adopted amendments, including adoption of the radon resistant new construction techniques for Zone 1 counties (counties which have a high radon potential) (MCL Ann. § 125.1504; MAC r. 408.30401).
  2. Michigan requires sellers of residential property (consisting of 1-4 dwelling units) to complete a seller's disclosure statement, which requires disclosure of environmental hazards including radon. It also recommends that buyers have a professional inspection of indoor air and water quality (Michigan Compiled Laws Ann. §§ 565.951--.966).
  3. Michigan has a non-regulatory (voluntary) education program called the “Michigan Indoor Radon Program”, which aims to raise awareness of health effects of radon, and the need for testing and mitigation. The program received EPA funding that was matched by state funds.

Analysis and Policy Highlights from Other States

Michigan is to be commended because it requires that new construction be “radon-resistant” in high-risk areas. Several other states also have radon resistant requirements for high-risk areas. These states include California (California Health & Safety Code § 105430), Florida (Fla. Admin. Code r. 9B-67.004; Fla. Admin Code r. 9B-52.004), and Washington State (Wash. Admin. Code § R327.1).

  1. There are no federal regulations for indoor air quality, including radon. However, the EPA recommends that all homes should be tested for radon, and remediation should occur at the “action level” of 4 pCi/L. Several states have adopted regulations to limit radon exposure in buildings:
  1. Florida has regulations that limit average annual radon decay product concentration in buildings to 0.02 WL, including background (Fla. Admin. Code. r. 64E-5.1001). Florida also authorizes the Department of Health to establish environmental radiation standards for buildings, and to conduct programs designed to reduce human exposure to harmful environmental radiation (Florida Statutes Ann. § 404.056).
  2. New Hampshire requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish testing requirements and standards for radon, among other indoor toxins, for buildings purchased, renovated, or leased by the state (N.H. Code Admin. R. He-P 1804, ENV-A 2201).
  3. Oregon authorizes the Department of Human Services to establish indoor air quality standards for toxins including radon (Oregon Revised Statutes Ann. §§ 433.502--526).
  4. Delaware may sanction real estate licensees who misrepresent the content or availability of disclosure forms for radon (Delaware Code, tit. 6, §§ 2570--2578).
  1. Other states have developed radon mitigation programs for residents:
  1. Washington DC developed and implemented a radon testing program, which is available to residents at a nominal fee (District of Columbia Municipal Regs., tit. 10, § 403).
  2. Rhode Island permits the Department of Health to provide laboratory services for voluntary indoor air quality testing, including radon, for an established fee (Rhode Island General Laws § 23-1-5.1).
  1. Michigan has a voluntary education program that is not required by regulation or statute. Other states, however, have required consumer education programs about radon risk:
  1. California prepares a booklet to educate consumers about common environmental hazards affecting property, including radon (California Business & Professions Code § 10084.1).
  2. Massachusetts publishes a brochure about radon inspections that must be issued to home buyers at signing of the house contract. In addition, home inspectors are required to notify clients about the radon testing status of the home (Massachusetts General Laws Ann., ch. 13, § 97; 266 Code Mass. Regs. § 6.01).
  3. Montana requires the Department of Environmental Quality to establish an educational program about radon, including presentations, toll-free telephone number, technical and training information, lists of qualified testers and mitigators, and encouraging residential testing (Montana Code Ann. §§ 75-3-601--607).
  4. West Virginia requires the Division of Health to conduct research and disseminate information about radon (West Virginia Code Ann. § 16-34-1 et seq.).
  1. Other states have established comprehensive radon plans through the Department of Health (or similar division):
  1. Illinois statute authorizes the state to undertake a variety of radon-related activities, including radon measurement, surveys, monitoring, education, and technical assistance (Illinois Compiled Stat. Ann. Ch. 420, §§ 44/1--90).
  2. New Hampshire requires the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate complaints of poor indoor air quality, and to investigate for presence of radon upon request. The Department also provides education, technical consultation, and recommendations for abatement of any health hazards (New Hampshire Revised Statutes § 125:9).
  3. New Jersey requires the Department of Environmental Protection to provide residential property owners with written certification that radon levels are within acceptable limits as established by EPA and the department, or certification that mitigation measures have been completed to remove excess radon (New Jersey Statutes Ann. § 13-1K-14). In addition, New Jersey authorizes studies of potential sources of radon contamination, and proposed strategies for radon testing in the state. The Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health are required to establish a program of confirmatory radon monitoring in residences (New Jersey Statutes Ann. §§ 26:2D-59--62).
  1. West Virginia authorizes local boards of health to provide "enhanced" public health services, such as such as lead and radon abatement to improve indoor air quality (West Virginia Code Ann. §§ 16-2-2, 16-2-11).
  2. Many states have requirements for radon mitigation services, including certification of radon professionals:
  1. California and Connecticut requires radon service professionals to complete the National Radon Measurement Proficiency Program of the National Environmental Health Association or the National Radon Safety Board Certified Radon Professional.(California Health & Safety Code §§ 106750—106865; Connecticut General Statutes Ann. §§ 20-420--427).
  2. Washington DC requires that individuals or companies engaging in radon testing or remediation be listed as proficient by the EPA. The mayor will publish a list of these professionals (District of Columbia Statutes §§ 28-4201--4203).
  3. Iowa requires certification and credentialing of radon testers and abators, and also periodic inspections of abatement measures (Iowa Admin. Code §§ 641-43, 44; Iowa Code Ann. §§ 136B.1--.5).
  4. Maryland requires radon testers to: complete the EPA's National Radon Measurement Proficiency Program, use licensed facilities for analyzing test results, and provide consumers with test results (Maryland Environment Code § 8-305).
  5. Montana requires radon professionals to pass an EPA proficiency examination in order to be publicly listed as proficient (Montana Code Ann. §§ 75-3-601--607).
  6. Virginia requires those engaged in radon testing and mitigation to comply with standards accepted by the EPA and state Board of Health. The Board for Contractors promulgates these licensure regulations, and also require that radon mitigation contracting firms hold a state building contractor license. The state maintains a list of these professionals (Virginia Code Ann. §§ 54.1-201, 54.1-1102; Virginia Admin. Code, tit. 18, § 50-22; Virginia Code Ann. §§ 32.1-229 et seq.).
  7. West Virginia requires licensing of those engaged in radon testing and mitigation, as well as radon laboratories. The state maintains a list of all the licensees, and will investigate public complaints about licensees (West Virginia Code Ann. § 16-34-1 et seq.).
  8. Many other states require some form of professional training or examination in order to be certified for radon testing (Ohio Code §§ 3723.01; Ohio Admin. Code 3701-69; Code R.I Rules § 14.120.007; Pennsylvania Statutes, tit. 63 §§ 2001 et seq.; Pa. Code §240; New York Energy Law §§ 7930.1 et seq.; N.J Admin. Code § 7:28-27.1; N.J. Admin. Code § 7:18-1.1 et seq.).
  1. The EPA has a State Incentive Radon Grant (SIRG) program that provides states and tribes funding for radon reduction programs, and the state/tribe must provide matching funds (EPA, 2007d). Michigan has received three SIRG grants. Several states have additional financial incentive programs:
  1. Florida provides funding to the Department of Community Affairs for activities incidental to the development and implementation of building codes for radon-resistant buildings (Florida Statutes Ann. § 553.98).
  2. Georgia established the Radon Awareness Grant Program to provide funds (up to $7,500) to local governments and community-based organizations to address radon issues (excluding mitigation) in their communities, and must be met by matching funds (GA Comp. R. & Regs. 391-7-2-.01--.04).
  3. New York established a green building tax credit program that includes a variety of indoor air quality requirements, including radon (New York Tax Law § 19; 6 N.Y. Code Rules & Regs. 638.8).
  4. Pennsylvania authorizes the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to establish a low-interest loan program to finance home improvements designed to prevent radon infiltration and accumulation in residences (Pennsylvania Statutes, tit. 35, §§ 7501 et seq).
  1. The federal government currently does not have regulations for radon levels in drinking water. However, they have proposed a rule, which has not yet been adopted (EPA 2007b). One state has taken the lead on this issue:
  2. Connecticut requires the Department of Public Health to adopt regulations establishing safe levels of radon in drinking water (Connecticut General Statutes Ann. § 19a-14b).

Evaluation and Recommendations

Michigan is to be commended because it is one of few states to require radon resistant new construction in high-risk areas. Michigan is also to be commended for its requirement of radon disclosure on property transactions, as has been done in many other states. The state should establish financial incentives for radon reduction programs, such as tax credits, loans, or grants. In addition, Michigan should establish certification requirements for those individuals and companies engaged in radon testing and mitigation. In the absence of federal regulations for radon in drinking water, Michigan should adopt drinking water standards, as Connecticut has done.

Radon in Schools and Daycare Centers

Michigan Policy Highlights

Michigan established a radon standard of 4 pCi/L for all basements approved for child use in family and group child care homes. Michigan policy also requires that documentation of radon test results be kept on file (MAC r. 400.1934). The regulations were set by the Department of Human Services (MCL Ann. § 722.112).

Analysis and Policy Highlights from Other States

  1. Other states have more extensive policies regarding radon for buildings frequented by children, including schools and/or daycare buildings:
  1. Colorado requires schools to test for radon, and new schools should be tested within 19 months of occupancy. Remodeled schools should be evaluated by the state to determine need for testing. All testing must follow EPA guidelines (Colorado Code, tit. 6, s. 1010-6).
  2. Connecticut requires public school buildings to incorporate indoor air quality guidelines. The state also prohibits the Department of Education from approving school building project plans or sites if the site is in an area of moderate or high radon potential. However, a school may be built at the site when the building project plan incorporates construction techniques to mitigate radon levels (Connecticut General Statutes Ann. § 10-291).
  3. Minnesota requires school districts to create an indoor air quality management plan that includes radon testing and mitigation, in order to receive state health and safety revenue (Minnesota Statutes Ann. § 123B.57).
  4. New Jersey established a Radon Hazard Subcode with standards for radon resistant materials and techniques to be used in schools and residential buildings in areas of high radon potential (New Jersey Statutes Ann. §§ 52:27D-123A--123E; N.J. Admin. Code §§ 5:23-10.1--10.4).
  5. New York requires a comprehensive indoor air quality program for public school buildings, including an annual safety radon with information on radon testing (New York Education Law §§ 409-d, 409-e; 8 NY Code Rules & Regs §§ 155.3--155.6).
  6. Many states require day care centers, child care centers, registered child residence, and schools to test for radon on a regular basis (varying by state) and to follow either national or state guidelines for safe levels of radon (Virginia Code Ann. § 22.1-138; Tennessee Code Ann. § 49-2-121; Code R.I. Rules § 14.120.007; R.I. Rules 16.21.25; W.Va. Code St. R. tit. 127, § 173; Code of Maryland; New Jersey Statutes Ann. § 30:5B-5.2; Iowa Admin. Code § 441-109.11; Conn. Agencies § 19a-79-7a).

Evaluation and Recommendations

Michigan should require testing and mitigation in school buildings and day care centers.

Nuclear Power Plant Facilities

Michigan Policy Highlights

  1. The Michigan Radiation Environmental Monitoring Program (MREMP) has been in place in Michigan since 1958, in recognition of the notion that peaceful nuclear energy could have effects on public health and the environment. Under this program, the MDEQ regularly monitors a variety of indicators of ionizing radiation in the environment (air particulate, aquatic, terrestrial, and direct ionizing radiation). Sampling stations exist for each of the four currently operating nuclear plants.
  2. The Michigan Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program, a part of the MDEQ, in addition to aiding in preparation for potential nuclear accidents, interacts with the staff of the state’s nuclear plants concerning day-to-day operations, in order to minimize the possibility of catastrophic accidents.
  3. Nuclear facilities are overseen by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). As such, policy regarding the operation of nuclear power plants is typically uniform throughout the country (NRC 2009).
  4. Michigan has EPA RadNet monitoring stations in 5 cities; stationary air monitors for radiation exist in Bay City, Detroit and Grand Rapids; additionally, precipitation and milk radiation levels are monitored in East Lansing and Lansing. Furthermore, Detroit and Grand Rapids also have drinking water monitoring stations (EPA 2011).

Highlights from other states

A number of other states also have radiation monitoring programs, which vary in their extensiveness. Of note are Massachussets, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Vermont.

Radioactive Waste

Michigan Policy Highlights

Michigan prohibits the disposal or storage of nuclear waste within the state. Exceptions include: the safe and secure storage or disposal in an aboveground facility of materials generated at an education institution or nuclear power plant at the facility that produced them; uranium tailings from instate uranium mining; the storage of nuclear materials typically used in medicine (MCL § 333.13724)

Analysis and Policy Highlights of Other States

  1. Most radioactive waste is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, states were given the responsibility of managing their low-level radioactive waste in the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980 and the Policy Amendments Act of 1985 (NRC 2009).
  1. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission permits states to cooperate in compacts to deposit low-level radioactive waste in a common site or group of common sites. Michigan is one of seven states (plus the District of Columbia) that is not a member to a compact. (NRC 2009).

Transportation of Radioactive Materials

Transport of radioactive materials is regulated jointly by the Nuclear Regulatory Committee and the Department of Transportation. As such, policy regarding the transportation of such materials is typically uniform throughout the country (NRC 2009).

Summary and Recommendations for Ionizing Radiation Policy in Michigan

To further reduce health hazards posed to children by exposure to ionizing radiation, Michigan should strongly consider the following policy actions:

  • Adopt indoor air quality standards for radon, like Florida, New Hampshire, and Oregon.
  • In the absence of federal regulations for radon in drinking water, Michigan should adopt drinking water standards, as Connecticut has done.
  • Establish programs for residential mitigation of radon, like Washington DC, Rhode Island, and other states.
  • Establish required public education programs for radon prevention, like California, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
  • Establishing comprehensive radon programs to assist with testing, mitigation, education, and research, like Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
  • Provide financial incentives for radon efforts (such as grants, loans, or tax credits), like Florida, Georgia, New York, and Pennsylvania.
  • Establish certification requirements for those individuals and companies engaged in radon testing and mitigation, like many states such as Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, and others.
  • Require testing and mitigation in school buildings and day care centers, like Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.


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