The environmental pressure group David Suzuki Foundation has issued a new report about the risks of radon in Canada, especially to homes and workplaces. Although aimed at Canada, many of the points raised are applicable to many countries.
The primary aim of the report is with public education. Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies radon as a known human carcinogen, the report notes that a large number of people are not aware of radon, and fewer still recognize it as a health hazard.
Last year when Riverwood International Charter School student Pascal Acree was a sophomore in Honors Chemistry, he did his science fair project on the effect of environmental conditions on radon levels in homes. This year, as a junior, he took it to the next level — making a poster and presenting at the international Radon Symposium in Charleston, SC.
He said he was inspired to do the project because of radon test results in his own home.
“My science project examined the effect of environmental conditions on radon levels in a home,” Pascal said. “I was motivated to pursue this because a radon test had recently been performed in our house.
Ali Jenkins, a seventh-grade student at Mapleton Junior High, saw a newspaper notice about a national poster contest to raise awareness about the dangers of radon. She decided to enter and was awarded first place at the state level by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality Division of Radiation Control.
Her winning poster, titled "Stop Radon Before it Stops You or Someone You Love!" will now be sent to the 2014 National Radon Poster Contest. Ali said she hopes her drawing of a house and a family will encourage parents to test their home for radon.
"I hope people will get the test kit and see if their home has radon, because it causes cancer," Ali said. "My aunt lived with us and died from cancer and I don't want anyone to have cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. I feel a lot safer after we put a system in our house. I learned about how dangerous it was when my brother did his Eagle Project."
January is national radon awareness month. If you do nothing else, at least take a look at the map of radon risk zones above. If your home is in an area shaded red or orange, you may be especially at risk.
What is radon?
Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can cause lung cancer. Although radon may be released from building materials, in most cases the source is natural radon found in the soils and rock on which your home is built. A house can act like a chimney: warm air rising inside causes a negative pressure in basements or at the slab level. This negative pressure can suck in gases, including radon.
How much radon is dangerous?
There are nine counties in the state with elevated indoor radon levels and Jackson County is one of them.
As a result, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and state Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, are hosting two radon awareness town hall events in an effort to educate residents on the dangers of elevated levels.
The first town hall meeting runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Super 8 in Brooklyn, 419 S. Main St. The second meeting runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at the Blackman Charter Township Hall, 1990 W. Parnall Road.
Radon is a Class A carcinogen, meaning it has been known to cause cancer in humans. It is an odorless, colorless and tasteless radioactive gas that originates from natural uranium found in soil and rock.
"Radon can't be seen or smelled, so it's important to take the necessary steps to find out if elevated levels exist in your home,” Shirkey said.
As coordinator of the state’s indoor radon program, I routinely deal with inquiries regarding health risks related to indoor radon exposure. My worst phone call is: "My wife/husband was just diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, we have never smoked a day in our lives and our doctor told us to test our home for radon. What is radon, and why hasn’t someone told us about it?"
Currently, Utah lawmakers are addressing major air quality concerns. It is no secret: Utahns value their crystal clear mountain air. Most often, it is the outdoor pollution that captures the attention because nasty smog is visible.
Ironically, indoor pollution, which may have higher health risks, receives less attention because it is not detectable. If homeowners could see the polluted air in their bedrooms and cozy family rooms, they would be shocked. Even worse, if they or someone they loved were diagnosed with lung cancer, they would probably demand answers to how and why.
ST. PAUL – Janet Thompson was being treated for terminal lung cancer, but her thoughts were about others.
She lobbied people she saw to check their homes for radon, a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer.
Now, her sister has taken up the cause. Lori Thompson-Garry told a House committee Wednesday that she backs a bill that would require a radon test when a house goes on the market.
“Lung cancer is very silent,” said Thompson-Garry of Eagan. “She had no symptoms.”
Thompson, who had lived in Glenwood, died last September at 49, two years after being diagnosed. In those two years, Thompson-Garry said, her sister told those giving her medical tests – and anyone else she could – that radon tests are important.
Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, said he wants to raise awareness of radon risks. He said he does not expect the bill to pass this year but eventually it will be state law.
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill sparked by a KSL investigation into Utah's non-existent radon gas laws will not make it through the legislature.
The bill's sponsor, Senator John L. Valentine, R-Orem, said the Radon Gas Provisions bill request hasn't even been drafted. It's apparently stuck in line at the drafting office with hundreds of other unprocessed bill requests.
"We made budget cuts over the last number of years just like all the agencies did, so we're seeing a very slow process in getting bills through our offices," he said. "It's very much jammed in the system."
Now, instead of a law to help protect Utahns from exposure to radon gas, Valentine has crafted a concurrent resolution asking for voluntary compliance.
"I don't like to do laws just to mandate laws just for the sake of mandating. I do like to have people do voluntary things that are in their best interest," Valentine said. "I think that's where we start with the concurrent resolution."
Wes and Mary Anne Bry moved their three daughters to Lakeville 18 years ago, thinking their new house on a quiet cul-de-sac would be a dream home.
But last September, just days before their 30th wedding anniversary, Wes was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and he began to wonder.
Wes, who is 60, had never smoked, and an Internet search led him to radon gas, the nation's second-leading cause of lung cancer. The Brys bought a test kit at a local hardware store, placed it in their basement -- and learned that the house where they have lived for nearly two decades has radon levels roughly three times above the federal safety level.
"I alerted all my neighbors," said Mary Anne. "Anybody I know ... I say: 'You should be doing this test.'"
State health officials are equally alarmed that, despite years of effort by their colleagues, thousands of other Minnesotans remain unaware of the health risks from the odorless, colorless gas.
MISSOULA- The Center for Environmental Health Sciences at The University of Montana has been given a five-year, $1.25 million Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health.
The grant will support environmental science education for 4,300 middle and high school students throughout Montana, Alaska and Idaho.
The project, the Clean Air and Healthy Homes Program, builds on CEHS's successful Air Toxics Under the Big Sky Program, which was funded by SEPA in 2003.
Researchers and educators will develop inquiry-based science lessons that will prepare students to conduct their own research projects focused on air pollutants that can affect human health, such as particulate matter, radon and carbon monoxide. Teachers will receive training, curriculum and air-sampling equipment to guide environmental health science education and research in the classroom, according to a news release.