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Deaths from radon exposure preventable

POSTED: December 13, 2007 5:02 a.m.
November is not my favorite month. So many times in November my husband, Joe, and I had to put on our badge of courage and faith to make it through difficult situation.
It was Nov. 2, 1979 that Joe had his first triple bypass surgery. On the night of Nov. 30, 1992, Joe passed out in the shower after returning home from work. We discovered in the hospital that he had lost over half of his blood from taking aspirin as a blood thinner over the past 13 years.
Twenty years after his first bypass, on Nov. 11, 1999, Joe had his second heart surgery.
Of course, we were so thankful to God that these serious conditions resulted in successful recovery. In spite and because of all of this, Joe remained a very active person with dedicated exercise routines of walking everyday. He followed a low fat, low cholesterol diet, and of course quit smoking in 1979. He loved to tell jokes and make people laugh. He was my light and strength.
Ironically, it was Nov. 2, 2005 when we found out that Joe's liver enzymes were elevated. After many tests, we were devastated when told Joe had lung cancer that had spread to his liver and lungs. How could this have happened? We needed our badge of courage and faith more than ever this November. Joe’s oncologist said  the two major causes of lung cancer are smoking and radon. Joe had not smoked for 27 years.
One month after Joe’s death, I found we had been living with an invisible killer — radon. It is odorless and tasteless; it is a radioactive gas found everywhere worldwide; it causes lung cancer. Former smokers or current smokers are at a much greater risk of lung cancer when living with high levels of radon. Radon is fickle; your neighbor’s house may have a low level of radon, while your house may be high. Only a test can tell.
If someone had just told us about the deadly power of radon and how easy it is to test and mitigate, we would have done so. Ignorance is certainly not bliss. It can be deadly. I decided at that time that I would dedicate myself to the cause of radon awareness.
With the strong support of my State Representative, Dan Reitz, and information and support from organizations and individuals concerned about radon in Illinois and other states throughout the nation, the Illinois Legislature passed The Radon Awareness Act (HB 1425). It states that at the point of sale of a house the buyer must be notified that the property may present exposure to dangerous levels of indoor radon gas that may place occupants at risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer.
A warning statement must be included, “Radon, a Class A human carcinogen, is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause overall.”
The seller must provide the buyer with any information on radon test results showing elevated levels of radon. A statement from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency  must be included that strongly recommends that all homebuyers have an indoor radon test performed prior to purchase or taking occupancy and mitigation performed if high levels are found.
A pamphlet entitled “Radon Testing Guidelines for Real Estate Transactions” prepared by IEMA must be given to the buyer by the seller.
I am very grateful for this law; however, more is needed. Mandatory testing of all homes before the sale is my goal. Schools, day care centers, and nursing homes also need required testing.
Everyone’s home needs to be tested for radon. The U.S. Government has set the radon action level at 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). If you are living with a high level, mitigation is quick and easy.
November is National Lung Awareness Month. Go to www.epa.gov/iag/whereyoulive.html to find out how to get a radon test kit from your state or go to your local hardware store.
Visit www.cancer.org to see other non-smokers affected by radon-induced lung cancer.
Lung cancer take the lives of about 162,000 each year, among which are about 21,000 preventable deaths due to radon exposure. Please let me speak for those who no longer can and urge you to use this November to test for radon; it may be the month to save your life or that of your loved one.
 

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