radon induced lung cancer
In the words of Dr. Ellen Hahn, professor in the University of Kentucky's colleges of nursing and public health, Kentucky has the "triple crown of lung cancer" - the country's highest rate of smoking combined with high rates of second-hand smoke exposure and high levels of radon exposure.
Nationally, lung cancer has the highest mortality rates of all cancers. While the relationship between tobacco smoke and lung cancer is well known, there is less awareness among the general public about the dangers of radon exposure. In the United States, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. Second-hand smoke exposure is the third leading cause.
More than 35 percent of homes tested in Porter County and more than 15 percent of homes in tested in Lake County had elevated levels of radon gas (4.0 pCi/l or more), according to a local home inspection company.
Phil Borkstrom and family have owned and operated Schererville-based Home Inspector Consultants for the last two decades, specializing in residential and commercial radon testing.
“The amount of residential radon testing we perform each year increases as people become more and more aware of its presence in homes,” Borkstrom said. “It's still not where it should be because we feel if everyone was aware of radon then every house, school and commercial building would be tested.”
The US EPA and Surgeon General share the same opinion on radon testing, and it's easy to understand why.
A tasteless, colorless, invisible killer can be detected in one in four houses in the Portland metro area. Its name is radon, a radioactive gas, and experts say the time to test for it is now.
“I don’t want to sit here 30 years later from now and learn my husband has cancer,” says Ella Vining, a mother of two from Southeast Portland.
Her husband’s office is in the basement of their home, and an initial radon test showed moderate levels of the radioactive gas in the basement.
Basements are usually the key site of exposure, because radon seeps in from the soil below.
A research team led by Portland State University geology professor Scott Burns, which tracks radon exposure levels statewide, updated its previous maps in January, based on a surge of new data derived from test results from 33,000 homes. The new data enabled the team to map out levels of radon by ZIP code across the state.
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.
Think you’re protected from lung cancer because you never smoked? When we hear that someone has been diagnosed with lung cancer, we automatically assume that this person was a smoker. It is true that cigarette smoking is the number-one cause of increased risk of lung cancer. In fact, it accounts for 85-90 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses. So what accounts for the remainder? Every day, the second-most-common cause of lung cancer is right under our feet: radon gas. It is reported that one out of every 15 homes in our country has elevated levels of radon gas.
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.”
She knew better and did nothing.
For Lois Turner Dees, that's the most frustrating part of knowing that radon in her home contributed to her diagnosis of lung cancer.
She knew radon was a dangerous, known cause of lung cancer and prevalent in Central Kentucky, but she never had her home tested.
"It just wasn't a high priority," said Dees. "We knew you could have radon tests; we just didn't get it done."
When she says "we" she means herself and her late husband, Larry Turner, who bought the house in 2000. She still lives there.
Some remember Dees, who remarried shortly after her cancer diagnosis in 2011, as one of the public faces of grief after the crash of Comair flight 5191 in August 2006, in which her husband and 48 others were killed. Turner's was the first public funeral, drawing 1,200 people from among the many who knew him from his job as head of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Office.
DALLAS -- When she first settled into her Dallas home six years ago, Kimberly Stokes asked if she should test for radon.
She said she was told she didn't need to worry about it.
That’s a starkly different answer than the one you get from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which estimates that radon kills as many as 20,000 Americans each year through lung cancer.
“Never smoked a day in their life, got lung cancer and, unfortunately, died because of that,” said George Brozowski, the EPA’s regional radon coordinator in Dallas.
The EPA has been trying to educate the public with a radon campaign, with commercials that warn viewers that radon is the number-one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Despite the effort, many are still unaware of the risk.
Every 25 minutes, one person in the U.S. dies from radon-related lung cancer. It is the largest environmental cancer risk and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Fortunately, the risk is largely preventable.
More than 40 percent of Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas and state health officials say every home should be tested. To emphasize the importance of radon testing, Gov. Mark Dayton has declared January “Radon Action Month” in Minnesota. More than 40 local public health agencies around the state have partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to make more than 8,000 radon test kits available to local residents at low or no cost. For details on how to obtain a kit, contact your local public health agency or MDH. A list of participating health agencies can be found on the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us.