SPRINGFIELD – November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is encouraging people to check their homes this month for a radioactive gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon gas, which comes from the decay of naturally-occurring uranium in the soil, has been found in homes in every county in Illinois.
“Lung cancer is responsible for more deaths each year than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and melanoma cancers combined,” said IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III. “While smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer overall, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. Our studies have found high levels of radon in nearly 40 percent of the homes tested in Illinois, but you’ll never know if your home has a problem unless you test.”
It’s estimated that 21,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur annually in the United States, more than 1,100 of those in Illinois.
In recognition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, IEMA today announced the launch of a radon poster contest to help kids learn about radon and how to reduce their risk of exposure. Students ages 9-14 are encouraged to create posters depicting radon’s health hazards and the need to test homes for radon. The deadline for submitting posters is March 1, 2010. Three winning posters will be selected from the five University of Illinois Extension regions.
Regional poster contest winners will be judged and the top three posters will be submitted to the national competition in Washington, D.C. Regional winners in Illinois will receive $50 savings bonds and the top three state posters will receive a $100 savings bond. The national winner, a parent and teacher will win an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in an awards ceremony.
The state Radon Poster Contest is sponsored each year by IEMA, the American Lung Association of Illinois, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago and the University of Illinois Extension.
Educational materials about radon and more details about the poster contest are available for teachers at the Extension’s radon website at www.TakeActionOnRadon.illinois.edu.
“Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US,” said Eileen Lowery of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. “Increased radon awareness and educating homeowners about the importance of testing their homes for radon is a vital part of our mission.”
Homeowners can test their homes with kits purchased at hardware or home improvement stores or hire an IEMA-licensed radon measurement contractor to conduct the test. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recommends taking actions to reduce home radon levels of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) or greater. IEMA also licenses radon mitigation contractors, who can install a system to reduce radon concentrations.
More information about radon, including results from IEMA’s statewide radon study and lists of licensed radon measurement and mitigation professionals is available at www.radon.illinois.gov or by calling the radon hotline at 1-800-325-1245.