Experts Work to Raise Radon Awareness


By Emily Finnegan

CARTERVILLE -- Health officials in Southern Illinois are taking a closer look at a silent killer.

More than a hundred medical professionals from three states gathered in Carterville Tuesday to learn more about the risks of radon exposure. Officials say they want to lower the number of people in our region dying from lung cancer, and raising awareness about the risks of radon could be an important step.

"Radon is one of the most serious environmental health risks that we face," said Univeristy of Minnesota professor Bill Angell.

Angell was one of the speakers at Tuesday's conference. He explains the colorless, odorless radioactive gas forms naturally in the ground. But when radon it enters your home, it is a serious problem.

"The risk of dying of lung cancer because of radon in your home is one out of 50," said Angell, "So it's an incredibly big risk. "

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U-S. In Southern Illinois, lung cancer deaths are 30 percent higher than the national rate. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals who took part in the radon awareness conference learned more about the gas, in an effort to combat that trend.

"It's very important that everyone test their house. Testing is very easy and very inexpensive," said Calvin Murphy with the Southern Illinois Radon Awareness Task Force

The Southern Illinois Radon Awareness Task Force estimates 25 percent of homes in this area have elevated radon levels, putting anyone who lives there at risk for lung cancer. Smokers have even more cause for concern.

"Smoking is bad. Radon is bad," aid Murphy, "Smoking and radon combined, the risk is much more increased."

The task force has radon testing kits available and recommends all homes be checked every two years. The amount of radon inside depends on the soil conditions and the pressure in your home and can vary greatly.

"Simply because the neighbor has tested his house, does not mean that you don't need to test your house," said Murphy.

Experts say improvement project and taking steps to make a house more energy efficient can also change the pressure in a home, so owners should check radon levels before and after that work.

Testing kits are available for around $10. The SIL Radon Awareness Task Force and the Illinois Emergency Mangement Agency both have information on radon testing and mitigation.




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