Spatial Analysis of Radon Testing and Mitigation in Illinois: A Public Health Perspective

Background: Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. It accounts for more than 21,000 deaths every year in the United States. Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless and tasteless gas that can seep into groundwater and into homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings.  Risk of radon-attributable lung cancer can be reduced if homeowners and tenants test their homes and install mitigation apparatuses if their radon levels are high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that all homes be tested for radon and homes with radon values above 4.0 picocuries/L be mitigated. Homes may be tested using either a licensed professional or through purchase of a home test kit.

Project Lead: Tracey Smith, DNP

PSP Team Members: Whitney Zahnd, MS

Collaborators: Kendra Ratnapradipa at St. Louis University and Patrick Daniels and Melinda Lewis at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s Radon Program

Goals: In the initial work of this project we explored radon testing patterns throughout the state of Illinois to help determine where radon awareness intervention should be targeted. In the coming year, we aim to perform the following tasks: 1) assess congruency between tests performed by licensed professionals and home kit tests; 2) evaluate compliance of state licensed daycare facilities with state radon testing regulations; 3) determine trends in testing concurrent with state regulations. 

Findings: In our initial findings, we found that zip codes with higher income, higher home values, and greater urbanicity have higher levels of radon testing. Further, more testing is performed in areas at greater risk for high radon levels, as determined by the EPA. We also found that areas of low testing rates are clustered in southern and west central Illinois.

Citations and Links:

  • Presentation at the 2016 International Radon Symposium: Slides
  • Publication in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: Article
  • Online Module for Continuing Medical Education credit