This Letter to the Editor is from Northville High School students Jimmy Tian, Edward Clifton, Allison Montambeau and Jessica Tyer. It stems from their research for their AP Environmental Science class.
On January 22, 2012, the famous football coach of the Penn State University Nittany Lions Joe Paterno died of complications from lung cancer. Most people think that lung cancer is simply a disease that smokers get.
That is simply not true.
Joe Paterno was not a smoker, but he lived in a very high radon risk area, the Pennsylvania Appalachians, leading to much speculation that Joe Paterno died as a result of radon induced lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency states that, each year, 21,000 non-smokers die of lung cancer from the hidden killer gas, radon . This means that radon kills more than home fires, drowning, and drunk driving put together. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, we live next to some of the highest risk areas in the state, such as Washtenaw and Jackson County .
Radon, a radioactive, inert gas, is truly the silent killer. It strikes without any warning, being odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Radon does not even cause any physical symptoms, such as wheezing, rashes, or coughing. Nobody is exempt from this danger, and radon is an especially high risk to children and people
who smoke. The only way that you can become aware of a radon threat in your home is through a radon testing kit. These kits are inexpensive and a solid investment in the health and livelihood of you and your loved ones.
Radon occurs in all counties of the United States, although rates of occurrence vary greatly based on geology. Radon is typically formed from the radioactive decay of the naturally occurring uranium and thorium, which are most present in underlying granite bedrock. Radon becomes a threat when the gas seeps into the house through cracks or joints in floors or walls, and decays into solid daughter elements, which are also radioactive. These daughter elements stick to dust, and wrecks havoc on the human body when inhaled, as it may become stuck to the airways of the lung and unleash harmful. Radon is recognized as the number one source of day to day radiation exposure for normal Americans.
Radon levels are measured by the amount of radiation released, as picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The EPA recognizes levels of 4 pCi/L to be the action limit, and it is estimated that as many as 15 percent of US households currently are at levels above that limit, and thus are unknowingly suffering from the effects of
radiation exposure to the lungs.
Despite the severity of the effects of radon exposure, protecting yourself from this dangerous gas is simple, relatively quick, and costs surprisingly little. An EPA approved home radon test kit costs less than fifteen dollars on average and can be purchased at Lowe’s Home Improvement, Home Depot, and many other local businesses. When testing for radon, follow the instructions listed on the package and place the test kit on the lowest level of your home. The kit should be placed in a regularly used area and all outside windows and doors in the home should be sealed. Leave the kit in place for as long as the instructions dictate and ensure that it is not disturbed during testing. Once your test has been completed, take or mail the kit to the testing facility listed on the package. If your home receives a reading of 4 pCi/L or higher, take a follow up test to verify and begin to take the recommended measures to reduce the radon levels in your home.
The loss of the famous Penn State football coach Joe Paterno affected sports fans across the country. With the use of simple home radon tests, you can protect yourself and your family from the dangerous gas that may have claimed an American sports icon. A simple home test can prevent radon-linked lung cancer and are regularly available across the state. It’s better to be safe than sorry; test your home for radon today.
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