Thursday, August 27, 2009

Radon levels and public health

I've become a radon fanatic. If I had a billion dollars, I'd start a foundation dedicated to radon and public health. So many people are unaware of the health hazards associated with elevated radon levels. Countless people are getting exposed to a carcinogenic gas and they don't realize it. Others simply don't care because they live in denial. They simply think, "it's not going to happen to me."

According to the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency):
Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Its presence in your home can pose a danger to your family's health. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims about 20,000 lives annually.
Why am I such a fanatic about radon? Because I didn't really care about radon until I recently had a house inspection. After the radon levels came back elevated, I did countless hours of research to explore and understand this topic. During that process, I realized that many other healthcare professionals simply don't really care very much about radon. It's an invisible gas, so people often forget to think about it.

How can I prove that many people don't care about radon or the EPA? The EPA has a Twitter account and do you know how many people are following the @EPAgov? At the time when I wrote this article, only 3,032. Even I have more followers than that! Compare that to 782,757 following @CDCEmergency!

1 comment:

  1. Everybody - at least in states like Ohio where Radon is a problem - who has purchased or sold a house in the last 10 years or so, has had to endure a radon test.

    And then shell out the bucks for mitigation. (They almost always find something.)

    I think you can even order cheap one-time radon test kits off the internet. Though I could be mistaken.

    And I see you are one of the people who discovered radon via real estate. I hope the purchase or sale went well.

    The fact that radon never (rarely) comes up in conversation, doesn't mean people aren't aware. Most people are aware of the risks of carbon monoxide, but who talks about it?

    Also, you shouldn't extrapolate your ignorance (or that of your immediate cohort) of the facts to society's ignorance at large. We do seem to have quite a few laws about radon testing and an entire industry devoted to making test equipment for home inspections.

    On some of the other statements you make...

    You get exposed to cancer-causing agents all the time. People in Denver get more radiation than the average American. Frequent fliers get more radiation. Is that a medical emergency?

    Oxygen is an invisible gas, that people rarely think about. What does that statement mean? Carbon monoxide is an invisible gas that people rarely think about...

    And gauging the EPA's relative effectiveness via Twitter is a bit of a stretch. Especially given the CDC's role in H1N1 recently. The EPA is about to put the brakes on clean energy development in West Texas. That sounds pretty *effective* - or at least powerful - to me, given the current mania for wind energy.