Tobacco smoke in a home is easy to detect as it drifts through the air or leaves its odor in clothes or furniture. Its health toll is equally as obvious as the leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.
Less obvious and almost as deadly is radon, an odorless gas that causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. It's a bigger concern during cold winters like the one we've just experienced when radon levels sky rocket in well-sealed homes.
The odorless gas is caused by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil and water and seeps into homes through drains and cracks in the foundation. While radon is natural in the air, levels can be harmful when it is trapped inside a house.
In the U.S. 1 in 15 homes have unsafe radon levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency website.
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."
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is inviting Nevada students to showcase their artistic talents and promote radon awareness by entering the 2014 Nevada Radon Poster Contest.
The contest is open to all children ages 9 to 14 years old enrolled in public, private, territorial, tribal, Department of Defense and home schools. Children can also enter through a sponsoring club, such as an art, computer, library, reading, science, scouting, youth or 4-H club.
Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that comes from the ground. It accumulates in homes and can cause lung cancer. This type of lung cancer is preventable, and the only way to know if a home has elevated levels is to test it.
American Fork Junior High science teacher John Moon is ready for the state’s annual radon poster contest.
Last year his eighth-grade student Tucker Nixon had already entered his poster when Moon learned about the contest. And when Nixon’s entry was judged the state’s best, the teacher was able to accompany his student to meet Gov. Gary Herbert at an awards ceremony.
"Radon gas is very common in Utah and very deadly," said Moon, noting the gas is odorless and colorless.
"Our best defense is proper new construction and continuing education," the teacher said. "By getting our youth involved in this state contest we will be doing our part to protect their future."
This year’s contest is underway, and the Utah Radon Program is looking for entries through Oct. 15. Online voting is set for Oct. 21-28.
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.
During National Radon Action Month, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) and Cheaha Regional Head Start led educational workshops for parents, volunteers and staff. The workshops emphasized the importance of radon testing and encouraged attendees to take action and test their homes for radon.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer among smokers and the leading cause among nonsmokers. Even though several states have specific radon policies, almost half of cancer coalitions may not be aware of radon as a public health concern, according to recent research by the CDC.
Researchers reviewed 65 cancer plans created from 2005 through 2011 by for terms like “radon,” “lung,” or “radiation.” Plan activities were categorized as home testing, remediation, radon awareness, supporting radon policy activities, or policy evaluation.
Cortland County Environmental Health Distributes 6,500 Radon Newsletters as Backpack Flyers to all County K-12 Students
The Cortland County Environmental Health Department, of Cortland, New York, has a long history of working with local school districts and private schools to share important messages about health safety. Last January it was able to take the message of radon risk prevention to over 6,500 community students and teachers! Using the funding provided by their current State Indoor Radon Grant from EPA, Cortland County was able to create flyers promoting awareness of environmental issues, then print and distribute those flyers in classrooms throughout the county.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is a pro at using screensavers to get out life-saving messages to their employees, so when they decided to promote radon testing they knew exactly how to reach their staff. KDHE installed a default PowerPoint on each computer that automatically scrolls through a variety of photos and graphics when a computer is briefly unused. The PowerPoint image that each staff member saw on their computer read “Test Your Home. Protect Your Health.”
Click here to view the PowerPoint.
After implementing the screensaver, many KDHE employees inquired about to get test kits more information about radon. It was a successful, free outreach method that educated KDHE’s staff about the danger of radon and got them into action to protect their families.
To educate students and spread the message about radon Katernia Cole, a coordinator with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) worked with Alabama 4-H, the youth development component to ACES, to distribute radon activity books to students at Red Bay High School and in surrounding counties. Each activity book contained useful information on how to test homes for radon.
“I was a former Nutrition Program educator and after a lesson I would always leave educational material with the students and teacher to reinforce the educational lesson. If you have ever heard the slogan ‘each one teach one,’ that is basically what I wanted the students to do,” said Ms. Cole.
The 4-H assistant who was already conducting 4-H in each school distributed the radon activity books to students and teachers. As a result, parents and legal guardians would visit and call ACES to request more information on radon.