NYC's Odd Sense of Good Health: No Big Sodas But Radioactive Kitchens

For his desired ban on the sale of 32-ounce sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants, delis, sports arenas, movie theaters and food carts, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been praised by a hierarchy of health experts, among them, the president and CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale, even former U.S. President William Clinton and former NYC Mayor Edward Koch have joined in the applause. Mayor Bloomberg is being commended for the steps he is taking to improve the health of all New York City residents.

While there is no doubt that New Yorkers, like the rest of the U.S. population, are drinking and eating too many highly caloric foods, and that obesity is a public health crisis, there is a more serious health concern coming our way that does not seem to bother Mayor Bloomberg. He wants big soda out of our lives, but Mayor Bloomberg wants to put in our lives, cancer-causing radon. It is due to arrive in the high-pressure natural gas that the Spectra Pipeline will be delivering to New York City very soon. Mayor Bloomberg supports the Spectra Pipeline so fully that he and the Public Service Commission urged commissioners to expedite a decision in their May session, rather than adhere to a review scheduled for June.

The commissioners did what was asked of them and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the pipeline's construction on May 21st.

A 30-inch gas pipeline will bring natural gas, hydrofracked from the Marcellus Shale, which according to a study conducted by Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, an expert in radioactive waste management, can contain radon concentrations 70 times above average.

The gas will arrive at a vault at the Gansevoort Peninsula near the HighLine and next door to the future Whitney Museum in the West Village. From there, the radon-containing natural gas will go through a planned pipeline along Tenth Avenue to Con Edison's distribution terminal at West 15th Street. Sane Energy Project, a volunteer organization, is working hard to alert all New Yorkers who have gas stoves that if the Spectra Pipeline continues to move ahead as Mayor Bloomberg wants, they will be radioactivating their kitchens when they try to scramble an egg. Turn on a burner and radon, the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, and the second leading cause among smokers, will be emitted for your inhalation. According to the EPA, radon causes 21,000 deaths from lung cancer yearly.

Radon is a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas created naturally during the radioactive decay of uranium, thorium and radium. Radon itself is only destroyed through radioactive decay, which happens in a half-life of 3.8 days.

New Yorkers currently receive natural gas from the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast gas has up to 30 times less radioactivity in its radon than gas from the Marcellus Shale. Not only that, it takes 6 to 8 days for the gas to travel through pipelines from the Gulf Coast area to New York City. By then, radon's most dangerous radioactivity has diminished considerably. The more highly radioactive Marcellus Shale gas will only take 10 to 15 hours to reach New York City -- not nearly enough time for decay.

On May 11th the Sierra Club, along with NoGasPipeline and the NJ Food and Water Watch filed a statement with FERC that included Dr. Resnikoff's study and asked for FERC to investigate the effects of indoor radon levels from hydrofracked Marcellus Shale before deciding on the pipeline. No investigation occurred. As already mentioned, on Monday, May 21st, with encouragement from Mayor Bloomberg, FERC approved the Spectra Pipeline. Is Mayor Bloomberg a health-conscious Mayor? Big soda versus cancer-causing radon in our kitchens... you be the judge!