Powell could require developers that build new houses in the city to include systems to vent a radioactive gas linked to lung cancer.

Councilman Brendan Newcomb on Feb. 20 discussed his proposal to compel the installation of radon-mitigation systems in new city dwellings with Powell's Operations Committee.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas released when the elements radium and uranium decay naturally in soil. According to the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio's geology lends itself to the production of radon, and elevated levels of the gas have been found in houses in every county in the state.

Newcomb said the prevalence of shale, which can contain higher concentrations of the elements that create radon than other geological formations, makes the gas somewhat ubiquitous in the region.

"In parts of the country, it's not a big issue," he said. "Because we're in central Ohio, it's an issue."

Newcomb said he became interested in the topic after reading a newspaper article about people with radon-related cancer and conducting further research.

Radon can enter a structure through cracks in floors or walls. Higher levels of radon generally are found in the basement or lowest level of a building.

While smoking cigarettes is the most-common cause of lung cancer in the United States, exposure to radon has been identified as the second-leading cause, according to the National Cancer Institute. Scientists have estimated 15,000 to 22,000 people die in the U.S. annually from lung-cancer cases related to radon.

While the majority of radon-related cancer deaths involve people who smoked, officials estimate 10 percent do not, according to the institute.

Homeowners with elevated radon levels can install radon-mitigation systems to reduce levels of the gas within the home. Such systems typically feature a line of PVC pipe that begins in the structure's basement and runs outside the house to above the roof.

An exhaust fan, which often sits near where the pipe exits the basement, draws the gas out from below the residence and disperses it outside.

Newcomb said while radon-mitigation systems added on to houses after construction often are easily identifiable, systems installed during construction could be mostly hidden.

According to the EPA, radon-mitigation systems cost about $1,200 on average. Newcomb said installing a system during construction likely would cost less than adding a system on to a house later.

Powell Mayor Jon Bennehoof said he supports the push to mandate radon-mitigation systems in new residences.

"It's not that much in the overall cost of a new build," he said. "It seems like the right thing to do."

City Manager Steve Lutz said he would confer with Law Director Gene Hollins on legislation related to the radon-mitigation system requirement, which would come before council at a later date. Nearby communities that already require builders to install radon-mitigation systems in new residential structures include Dublin and Union County.