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12-18-1997

Clarkson Professor Appointed To National Research Council Committee: Risk Assessment Of Exposure To Radon From Drinking Water

Potsdam, N.Y.–Clarkson University Robert A. Plane Professor and Dean of the Graduate School Philip K. Hopke has been appointed to the National Research Council's Committee on the Risk Assessment of Exposure to Radon from Drinking Water. The committee was mandated by last year's Safe Drinking Water Act Re-authorization, due to a Congressional mandate that was placed into the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1986.

The goal of the committee is to make the risk assessment to be used by EPA to set the maximum concentration level of radon in drinking water. The EPA initially suggested a standard of 300 pCi/l (picocuries per liter) of water. However, this standard was assailed by the water utilities as unnecessarily stringent, and by environmental groups as insufficiently stringent. One of the Natural Resources Defense Council's arguments was that EPA had failed to consider the increment of dose and exposure from showering with radon-laden water.

The Safe Drinking Water Act must be re-authorized every seven years. When the 104th Congress was to revise the legislation a year ago, the initial plan was to set a standard. However, upon reconsideration, it was decided to require EPA to contract with the National Academy of Science to perform a risk assessment and uncertainty analysis. Giving the contract to the NAS ensures the findings will be independent and impartial.

The committee on Risk Assessment of Exposure to Radon from Drinking Water has met four times so far and is working on a very restricted time line–their report is due next summer. Another committee has already done an overall assessment of radon, which leaves the current committee with two objectives: to find out how much risk there is in ingesting radon in drinking water; and the risks of radon coming out of the water (including via showers) into the air of the house. This second objective has already been accomplished, in part through the report Hopke published last spring. The first objective is going to be more difficult for the committee to accomplish, since there is very little accurate data available to work with.

Philip Hopke has been at Clarkson as the Robert A. Plane Professor of Chemistry since 1989, and was appointed dean of the Graduate School earlier this year. Prior to joining the Clarkson faculty, Hopke worked for the University of Illinois for 15 years, and also served as visiting professor at Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Belgium. Hopke received his B.S. in chemistry from Trinity College, and his M.A. and Ph.D., both in chemistry, from Princeton.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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