CONTACTS: Patti Thompson 217-557-4756
January 6, 2017
SPRINGFIELD – Governor Bruce Rauner has proclaimed January ‘Radon Action Month’ in Illinois to encourage residents to test their homes for radon, a radioactive gas that is recognized as the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. It’s estimated more than 1,100 people in Illinois develop radon-related lung cancer each year.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the American Lung Association in Illinois (ALAIL) and Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine are joining forces in January to increase public awareness of radon risks and ways to reduce radon exposure, as well as to enhance understanding of this health hazard within the medical community.
To kick off Radon Action Month, IEMA and the ALAIL today announced a statewide initiative to help Illinois school districts screen school buildings for radon. Radon detection equipment, assistance with developing a radon testing plan and guidance on radon detector placement within school buildings is now available for school districts throughout the state.
To participate in the initiative, designated school district employees must complete an online training course on procedures for performing screening measurements in their district school building. IEMA and the ALAIL will work with participating school districts on development of a quality assurance project plan and a final report, as well as providing guidance for placement of measurement devices in one school building in each district.
“State law encourages school districts to test buildings for radon every five years,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “This program will provide the equipment and guidance schools need so they can conduct the tests themselves and save the cost of professional testing.”
The initiative is similar to a pilot program launched in 2011 that assisted 56 schools in 17 districts with testing 2,500 rooms for radon. Of rooms tested, a little more than 8 percent were found to have radon levels above 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), which is the level at which radon remediation efforts are recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In many cases, radon levels in schools can be lowered through modifications to the heating and air conditioning systems, while a professional radon mitigation contractor may be needed to address elevated radon levels in other schools.
The ALAIL will deliver radon detectors to participating schools and assist designated school personnel with testing protocol and detector placement. Cost for the detectors and ALAIL’s work will be supported by an IEMA grant funded through the federal State Indoor Grant Program.
“Americans spend almost 90% of their time indoors.” said John DeRosa, Environmental Program Director, ALAIL. “It’s important that we are safe at home, at school and where we work. This program provides a low cost opportunity to keep both teachers and students safe from the dangers of radon gas.”
School districts interested in participating in the program should contact Kallie Sinkus at Kallie.Sinkus@lung.org or by phone at 217-718-6667. School testing will be scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.
IEMA today also recognized Tracey Smith of the SIU School of Medicine with the 2016 Illinois Excellence in Radon Award. Smith is the Director of Population Health Integration and Population Health Education for SIU Health and the Department of Family & Community Medicine as well as an assistant professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine. She has worked with IEMA to educate medical school staff and students on the risks of radon exposure. She also supervised the development of the first online continuing medical education course available nationally on radon.
A display on radon risks, testing and mitigation currently is on display in the SIU Medical Library to educate medical students and medical professionals about the naturally occurring health hazard. In addition, IEMA radon program staff will provide a presentation on radon during a “Lunch and Learn” for SIU employees on Jan. 27 in the medical library.
Addressing the impact radon has on health, Tracey Smith noted: “We are aware that where a person lives effects their health more than what we often do in the healthcare setting. It has been well documented that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco for those who smoke and the leading cause of lung cancer for those who are non-smokers. Therefore as we provide training to future healthcare providers on how to provide general preventive messages to patients to reduce the risk of cancer we must include education on the impact of radon exposure on lung cancer risk.”