Is Fannie Mae’s American Dream Killing You?

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Despite the passage 15 years ago of federal legislation requiring HUD to protect an unknowing public from deadly radon gas exposure, Fannie Mae has no requirement that applicants for government insured mortgages even be told that radon is a Class-A carcinogen and the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer, much less a requirement to test. They are however, required to have a termite inspection.

We have all seen the Fannie Mae TV commercials - compelling visuals of a beautiful American family standing by a white picket fence surrounding their first home as the narrator proudly acclaims, “Having a safe place to call home strengthens families, communities, and our nation as a whole.” At Fannie Mae, we’re in the American Dream Business.”

But Fannie’s definition of a “safe place to call home” may be different from your own. For example, would you consider your house to be safe it was contaminated with dangerous levels of airborne radiation – an invisible and odorless gas attributable to 21,000 American lung-cancer deaths every year?

Despite the passage 15 years ago of federal legislation requiring HUD to protect an unknowing public from deadly radon gas exposure, Fannie Mae has no requirement that applicants for government insured mortgages even be told that radon is a Class-A carcinogen and the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer, much less a requirement to test. They are however, required to have a termite inspection.

The Government Accounting Office reports that, “Although these housing agencies and mortgage institutions have the authority to require disclosure or testing, some cited various reasons for not doing so. Some mortgage institution officials said they do not consider radon a mortgage risk. For example, Fannie Mae officials stated that the presence of radon has not resulted in any loan defaults.”

So the hard truth appears Fannie would only be concerned about the home occupants being exposed to dangerous radon contamination if it could result in a loan default. Sort of takes the “warm and fuzzies” out of the American Dream business, doesn’t it?

“To ensure trust in Fannie Mae,” says their CEO Frank Raines, “Fannie Mae must be trustworthy. We strive to hold every individual at Fannie Mae to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability. Integrity must be part of the Fannie Mae culture ”

According to Dallas Jones, Chairman of the American Radon Policy Coalition, “To earn the competitive advantage of government underwriting, the very least Fannie Mae can do is ensure the public health in the process. I see little integrity and accountability when the nation’s number one provider of federally insured mortgages fails to take an active role to address the most deadly issue in housing today, particularly since radon-induced lung cancer is so preventable.”

In the 15 years since the passage in the Indoor Radon Abatement Act, 2½ million Americans have died of lung cancer. Over 17% of all lung cancers occur in non-smokers, the 5 year survival rate for lung cancer is less than 15% and lung cancer is by far, the number one cancer killer in America.

According to newly revised risk assessments for radon exposure, approximately 315,000 Americans (over the last 15 years) were victims of radon-induced lung cancer. One of those victims is thirty-eight year old Elizabeth Hoffman of Milwaukee, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 2003. Neither Liz, nor her husband has ever smoked and she has no family history of lung cancer. Her oncologist, like so many, offered no explanation as to what could be the cause.

Searching for explanation, Elizabeth’s father came across radon information on the EPA website and tested the residence Liz and her husband had been living in since they were married 15 years ago. The house was seriously contaminated. With grit and determination, Liz now fights for her life through surgery, chemo and radiation therapies. For Liz and her family, their American dream has turned into a nightmare.

All eyes are now on you Fannie Mae! A dose of integrity and accountability with regard to radon exposure would thwart thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year.

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