SPRINGFIELD – You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Illinois Broadcasters Association (IBA) are joining together to make people in Illinois more aware of the hidden health hazard that could be in their homes. Radio and TV messages that recently began airing across the state highlight the fact that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and encourage people to contact IEMA for free home test kits.
“These TV and radio spots carry an important message – radon is not only the second-leading cause of lung cancer overall, for non-smokers it’s actually the leading cause of lung cancer,” said Andrew Velasquez III, IEMA director. “We want people throughout Illinois to know that the only way to know whether or not your house has high levels of radon is to test. Testing is easy, and we’re trying to help people test their homes by offering free radon test kits, which are available through our web site or toll-free radon hotline.”
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. It can enter homes and buildings through small cracks in the foundation, sump pumps or soil in crawlspaces. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has determined that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation, but the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The National Academy of Sciences and the Surgeon General estimate that 21,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur annually in the United States, as many as 900 of those in Illinois.
Production of the TV and radio spots, purchase of air time and two rounds of surveys cost $118,581 and were funded through IEMA’s annual grant from the USEPA. IEMA contracted with the University of Illinois at Springfield to handle a pre-development survey, production of the four radio and three TV public service announcement-like messages and coordination with the IBA to purchase time on member stations throughout the state. An agreement with the IBA ensures that the messages will run on nearly 200 IBA member radio stations and 30 IBA member TV stations. After the three-month run ends in mid-October, UIS will conduct another survey to determine the effectiveness of the messages.
"Illinois' broadcasters are delighted to welcome this campaign into our PEP (Public Education Partnership) Program," remarked Dennis Lyle, President and CEO of the Illinois Broadcasters Association (IBA.) "Educating the public of the importance of radon testing by way of the airwaves is just another example of how the broadcast community responsibly serves the public interest."
To increase awareness of the need to test homes for radon, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich recently signed into law the Illinois Radon Awareness Act. Beginning January 1, 2008, anyone buying a home, condominium or other residential property in Illinois must be provided with information about indoor radon exposure and the fact that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause overall.
“With more than 160,000 homes sold each year in Illinois, this new law will help us reach many more people and hopefully encourage them to test their homes for radon,” Velasquez said. “It doesn’t matter where you live in Illinois – your home could have elevated radon levels that can put you and your family at risk of lung cancer.”
In September 2006, IEMA released a report showing that nearly half of 22,000 Illinois homes tested by professional radon measurement contractors had potentially unsafe levels of radon. Test results from those homes showed radon levels at or above the 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) action level recommended by the USEPA. The study also found 80 counties where few, if any, professional tests for the naturally occurring radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer were conducted during the two-year study period.
While only data on home radon measurements by licensed contractors during the study period were available for the 2006 report, the IEMA radon program will receive results from the free test kits the agency is distributing, and that information will enable the agency to get an even clearer picture of the occurrence of radon in Illinois.
IEMA encourages anyone who discovers their home has elevated levels of radon to contact a licensed radon mitigation professional to correct the problem. As with radon measurement professionals, mitigation experts in Illinois are licensed by IEMA to ensure they have the proper equipment, specialized training and technical skills to do the job right and reduce radon in the home to safe levels. Depending on the home, radon mitigation can cost between $800-1,200.
More information about radon, including results from the statewide study, lists of licensed radon measurement and mitigation professionals and requests for free home test kits are available on the IEMA website at www.radon.illinois.gov. Radon information and free home test kits are also available through the radon hotline at 1-800-325-1245.