One Vermonter's Plea to Make People Aware of the Dangers of Radon
A few years ago, Kathy Robinson's family was rocked with the news that her mother had stage IV lung cancer - a diagnosis that was all the more difficult to fathom because her mom was not a smoker. Her mother died two years after her diagnosis. "We couldn't understand it, my mom lived a very healthy life," said Robinson. "Then we learned about the radon that had been seeping into the house for years."
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas made up of radioactive particles that enter the home from the underlying soil and bedrock. Over long periods of time, radon can damage lung tissue. According to state health officials, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. It is estimated that 50 Vermonters die each year due to radon-related lung cancer. For smokers, the risk of lung cancer from radon is especially high.
Kathy's story became widely known when she offered to speak about her family's experience for a video urging Vermonters to test their homes for radon. Kathy said it was her mom's health care provider who suggested testing their home for radon. The radon levels in the living room were found to be 25 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's radon action level. The levels in the basement, where Kathy’s bedroom was when she was growing up, were even higher.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD said that many factors contribute to how much radon gets into a home, and neighboring houses can have significantly different radon levels from one another. "It doesn’t matter where or how old your home is, it can still have high levels of radon," said Dr. Levine. "One out of every seven homes in Vermont has elevated levels of radon, and the only way to know if radon is present in your home is to test for it."
"I wish we had been more aware of radon. We would have done something about it," said Kathy. "Everywhere I go and everyone I meet, I tell them about radon and encourage them to get their home tested. It can save your life." Watch the video: Kathy's story at http://healthvermont.gov/radon.
The Health Department offers free radon test kits. To request your free kit, call 1-800-439-8550 or send an email with your name, mailing and physical address and phone number to email@example.com.
Homes should be tested for radon every five years and after renovation work that affects heating or ventilation, or disturbs the foundation or underlying bedrock. Radon levels can be reduced by installing a radon mitigation system.
See Kathy's video and find more information about radon, testing and mitigation: healthvermont.gov/radon.
View an interactive map about radon risk in your town: https://arcg.is/1TGSba.
Media Contact: Ben Truman, Vermont Department of Health, 802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281