The Silent Killer in your Neighborhood By: Holly Howell


Keywords: radon, lung cancer, uranium, radioactive gas, social justice             RN


Did you know that radon kills 1 person every 25 minutes in the U.S. [1]?  Radon accounts for 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S every year. In comparison, there are 17,400 deaths as a result of drunk driving, 3,900 deaths from home fires and 430 deaths by carbon monoxide annually [2].

You might be asking yourself what is radon?  Radon is a cancer causing radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell or taste but is a decay product of Uranium that is found in soils, rocks and water [3].

It is estimated that 1 in 6 homes in the U.S. are affected by radon annually [1]. How does radon get into your home? “Air pressure inside your home is usually lower than the pressure in the soil around your home’s foundation. Because of this difference in pressure, your house acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings. Your home then traps the radon inside, where it can build up” [4].

ins  (Source:

In Mesa County, Colorado the Colorado Department of Health and Environment reports that 38% of homes have a radon result of 4pCi/L and above [5]. The EPA suggests that action be taken when homes are at or above 4pCi/L and remediation is recommended when levels are between 2 and 4pCi/L [6]. “A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site” [7].

21,000 preventable lung cancer deaths are unimaginable for the United States and something needs to be done. It is important for community leaders, social workers and neighbors to stand up for social justice and help one another understand the dangers of radon and how we can raise awareness to decrease these preventable deaths.

The honest truth is that many families are unable to afford the testing kit to ensure that their home does not exceed a safe level of radon. Just because your neighbor had their home tested and was found to be fine, does not mean that your home is also fine. The National Radon Program Services with Kansas State University, offers both short and long term test kits at an affordable rate [7]. Short-term test kits are used for 3-4 days and are $15 and long term test kits are used over a 3-12-month period and are $25 [7]. Once you receive your kit, instructions are printed on the package. After conducting the test, you return the kit for no extra cost. You can then access your results by the website for short-term kits or the customer service telephone line for long term kits [7].  This can be confusing for some, so be a resource and help others conduct their test!

Let’s get the word out to our neighbors on how to obtain these kits.  The prevention of one death is worth advocating and helping our neighbors.







[6] Lantz, Paula M, PhD,M.S., M.A., Mendez, D., PhD., & Philbert, M. A., PhD. (2013). Radon,

smoking, and lung cancer: The need to refocus radon control policy. American Journal of Public Health, 103(3), 443-447. Retrieved from


Holly Howell (Grand Junction, CO)-Social work interests include: Hospice and Palliative Care, bereavement, anticipatory grief, aging, death and dying.

Favorite quote: “You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.”- Dame Cicely Saunders









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s