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Lexington Business Helps Mitigate Deadly Cancer Risk

Lexington, KY – Sometimes life deals us a severe emotional setback such as the unexpected and shocking death of a loved one. Lois Turner Dees of Lexington knows the feeling too well. Her husband, Larry Turner, an associate dean and director of the cooperative extension service at the University of Kentucky, was aboard Comair Flight 5191 when it crashed at Blue Grass Airport in August 2006, killing 49 people.

Five years after that terrible accident, fate dealt Dees another blow. That fall, shebegan coughing uncontrollably. Her doctor ordered a round of antibiotics, then a chest x-ray, followed by CAT and PET scans. That’s when Dees was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“At one of those appointments, my doctor asked me, since I was a non-smoker, if I’d ever had our house tested for radon. I had not,” Dees explained. “When it was tested, on an acceptable scale of zero to four, our home tested at 32. It had eight times the acceptable level of radon in it.”

Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, occurring naturally in the earth as uranium or thorium slowly decays into lead. The gas may seep not only into homes, but into any kind of building that sits over a field of radon.

Since her diagnosis, Dees has used her contacts in the media, collected following her husband’s death, to urge the public to have their homes, businesses and other structures where people congregate tested for radon.

“I don’t think anyone chooses to be a radon advocate,” she said. “Having radon in your home or workplace is dangerous. Many have smoke alarms or Co2 detectors. Smoke and carbon dioxide do immediate harm to people. Radon does serious harm to people too but it’s just not immediate. It happens over a period of time.”

Dees said her home was professionally tested for radon levels and steps taken to mitigate the danger. Radon Solutions of Kentucky, located in Lexington, did the job. Kenny McLaughlin is its president and technologist.

“All soil, rock and water contain traces of radium, some more than others,” he stated. “All structures are susceptible to radon problems whether you have a walkout basement, a pit basement foundation, a slab on grade or a crawl space.”

McLaughlin works on homes, commercial buildings, new construction, historic structures and government buildings, such as the Post Office and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Lexington.

McLaughlin’s company provides a building investigation and specialized testing for radon. If the structure was previously tested, he wants to make sure it was tested correctly. He also offers custom-designed mitigation services because no two structures have the identical radon problem.

The company uses different methods to mitigate radon gas. Crews can depressurize the air under the floor of the structure, dig out soil and gravel and create a vacuum pit and run pipes and an exhaust fan to vent radon out of the structure. Fans may be installed outside the structure or in an attic. The goal is to remove the gas through pipes that are high enough and far enough away from windows and doors so it can’t re-enter the building.

Another strategy is to put down a six mil plastic membrane and seal it to the walls with urethane caulk that when installed looks like a light swimming pool liner. “Every system we install is custom-designed for the needs of that structure,” said McLaughlin.

He discusses aesthetics with the property owner. Depending on the owner’s budget, pipes and fans can possibly be installed so they are not readily visible inside the structure.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency works with states to create educational and awareness programs about the dangers of radon. The Kentucky Radon Program, created in the 1990s, receives grants through the program. Kentucky residents may request a free test kit.

“We use air-check radon kits that are charcoal-based and simple to use,” said Clay Hardwick, coordinator for the state program. “We mail them out from Frankfort and the return postage is paid to get it to a lab for testing. It takes a least a couple of weeks before the results are sent to you.”

To order a free radon kit, call Hardwick at 502-564-4856 or email him at clay.hardwick@ky.gov. In addition, some county health departments offer free radon test kits or you can buy one at your local home improvement store.

Remarried in the past year, Dees has gone through two rounds of chemotherapy at UK’s Markey Cancer Center and is preparing for a third series to start soon. Dees said her doctor, who works closely with cancer patients, had not had her own home tested for radon until a few years ago. The test revealed high levels of radon present. The home was inspected and the radon mitigated.

“I understand it’s not a priority for many people who lead busy lives,” said Dees. “But one thing we can do for our families today is to make sure there isn’t the presence of radon in excessive amounts in our homes.”

Read more here: http://bizlex.com/2013/05/lexington-business-helps-mitigate-deadly-cancer-risk/2/