After Fukushima, we invested in some measuring gear, and have been surprised by what we see. As a layman, have taken a number of roadside readings over a significant swath in my travels in Colorado and Wyoming, and the observations suggest a couple widespread issues: 1) apparently elevated background radiation; 2) radioactive isotopes being deposited on surfaces by rainwater (and likely inhaled in moist rain air).
The first one seems likely to be a result of contamination over the decades by the 2000+ nuclear tests and disasters. The second seems to be naturally occurring and related to radon interacting with ozone during storms.
Surely the EPA has maps that detail the background radiation nationally, from regular sampling at all their national sampling sites. I have not found this information available publicly. If it is out there, where is it? Would be helpful to see it provided by year dating back ideally to the 1950's or so.
Such maps would help the public understand changes in the background radiation over the years due to said testing and catastrophies. Also, it would help in planning where to live, etc. These are a valuable resource for the public and should not be hidden away.
The other thing, the main reason for my writing, is that though this radon progeny component appears to be naturally occurring, its apparent danger has not been acknowledged and publicly recognized.
We think of radon testing in the basements of new homes and are done with it. Radon is the primary cause of lung cancer. It even indirectly is the cause of lung cancer due to smoking...live tobacco absorbs and concentrates the alpha particles occurring naturally in the air and water...when it is smoked, these are deposited in the lungs and stay there.
I am seeing high levels of contaminants in rain water, collected on "wipes" of wet surfaces (about 60 square feet). The wipes concentrate deposits. In theory, if there are no deposits, the wipes would continue to show background radiation levels, but this is not the case. They have what our meter characterizes as "dangerous" levels, immediately after a storm.
For example, our meter characterizes over 0.40microSieverts/hour as "High" and over 1.2microSieverts/hour as "Dangerous." We have seen readings of 3.66microSieverts/hour! (And have photos to prove it.)
Again, not an expert, but this appears to be on the scale of a chest x-ray, and so is at least worthy of discussion.
The suggestions from these lay observations are:
1) Do not drink rainwater
2) Do not wipe down surfaces (such as cars) wet with fresh rainwater
3) Close windows while it is raining and do not breath fresh rain air as much as possible until several hours after a rain.
4) These types of suggestions appear most important for the young, as they are more sensitive to this issue, and the issue takes decades to manifest as illness (so it is less an issue for the older like me).
Would also appreciate having experts weigh in on this, but it is amazingly hard to get them to talk. Likely this comment will be moderated out.