Radon mitigation bill advances

Lawmakers advanced a bill to select file March 18 that would require the state’s building code to adopt standards for radon-resistant construction for new houses.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist10' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Wendy DeBoer'>Sen. Wendy DeBoer</a>
Sen. Wendy DeBoer

LB130, introduced by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, would adopt standards recommended by the Radon Resistant New Construction Task Force. The bill would incorporate those standards into the state building code and require local building codes to adopt minimum standards.

“Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers,” DeBoer said. “According to the World Health Organization, there is no known threshold concentration below which radon exposure presents no risk.”

Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango said he worried that the bill would add construction costs to new dwellings.

“For those of us in rural parts of the state, we’re really struggling to get new homes built,” he said.

Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha said it would cost between $200 and $250 to test and implement a passive mitigation system during construction of a residence. He added that the Home Builders Association of Lincoln and the Metro Omaha Homebuilders Association sent letters supporting the bill.

“These are the people we’re trying to protect from regulation who are saying ‘yes, we want this regulation’—I don’t know how much more ironic that could be,” Wayne said.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha supported the bill, saying her mother-in-law died after a 10-year struggle with lung cancer caused by exposure to radon.

“If they would have known when they built her house to spend $200 to do this, my husband’s mother would be with us now,” Cavanaugh said. “Two hundred dollars is significantly cheaper than 10 years of chemotherapy.”

Opposing the bill was Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard. He said fears about radon exposure are overblown.

“I think radon exposure is in the same category of global warming,” he said. “I think the jury is still out on radon.”

After approving an Urban Affairs Committee amendment on a 33-0 vote, which would allow municipalities to adopt an alternative minimum standard for radon mitigation in new construction, senators advanced LB130 to select file 35-5.

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