Mallory Powell

By

College: Medicine

Study Examines Increase in Lung Cancer Risk from Combined Radon and Tobacco Smoke Exposure

Published: Apr 25, 2014

 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 25, 2014) -- In the words of Dr. Ellen Hahn, professor in the University of Kentucky's colleges of nursing and public health, Kentucky has the "triple crown of lung cancer" - the country's highest rate of smoking combined with high rates of second-hand smoke exposure and high levels of radon exposure.

 

Nationally, lung cancer has the highest mortality rates of all cancers. While the relationship between tobacco smoke and lung cancer is well known, there is less awareness among the general public about the dangers of radon exposure. In the United States, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. Second-hand smoke exposure is the third leading cause.

 

And, if you're exposed to radon and tobacco smoke, either through personal use or second-hand smoke, your risk of lung cancer increases tenfold. Hahn's current study, FRESH (Freedom from Radon Exposure and Smoking in the Home), examines the synergistic risk between tobacco smoke and radon exposure and whether risk can be reduced through dual home screening and subsequent interventions.

 

Radon is a radioactive soil gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It enters buildings through the foundation and plumbing and becomes trapped in indoor spaces. When inhaled, radon causes immediate DNA damage before decaying into lead, which might stay in the body for decades. According to UK's Clean Indoor Air Partnership, exposure to radon is associated with an estimated 15,400 to 21,800 lung cancer cases in the United States each year, an estimated 3-14 percent of the total cases. Most radon-induced lung cancers are thought to be associated with low to moderate radon concentrations.

 

In Kentucky, radon exposure is variable but high, with about 40 percent of homes estimated to have radon exposure. The Clean Indoor Air Partnership reports that in Northern Kentucky, 19 percent of tested homes were at or above safe levels (4 pCi/L) in 2000-2004, compared with only 7 percent nationally.  

 

"The whole state is in a high risk area for radon, according to the EPA," said Hahn.

 

She says that there's a myth that if you don’t have a basement, you can't have radon exposure. The truth is that any type of building can have radon exposure, and her research indicates that there are high levels of radon in both urban and rural areas in Kentucky.

 

Unlike tobacco smoke exposure, which is observable and also detectable in hair and fingernails, radon exposure is only detectable through testing of indoor spaces, which is cost-effective and easy.  If a building has unsafe levels of radon exposure, the radon can be mitigated from the soil by a certified mitigation specialist. Because there is no known safe level of exposure to radon, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that Americans consider fixing their homes for radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L. The mitigation process, however, can be expensive, ranging from $1,200 t o $2,500 depending on the size of a home.

 

Hahn's current FRESH study, originally supported by pilot funding from the UK Markey Cancer Center, UK College of Nursing, UK Got Grants Program and now supported by an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, aims to prevent lung cancer by addressing the dual risk of radon and tobacco smoke exposure in homes through testing for exposure and encouraging risk reduction actions, including smoking outside (rather than inside) and radon mitigation. The study is still enrolling participants, and more information is available by calling 859-323-4587 or emailing UKFRESH@lsv.uky.edu.

 

In addition to individuals taking action to test their homes and adopt behaviors to promote clean indoor air, Hahn hopes that more policy-level changes can help protect people from radon exposure. She points out that Kentucky has only two laws related to radon: that if a home has been tested for radon the results must be disclosed in a sale, and that only certified professionals can perform radon mitigation services. There are no laws in Kentucky obligating radon testing for single family homes or multi-unit residences, schools, or business, and no laws mandating radon-resistant construction of new homes, which costs around half as much as mitigation.

 

"The radon laws nationally are pretty weak," she said. "There are some states that lead the pack, like Illinois, because people have advocated for laws there. But I think it's just a matter of the policy keeping up with the science. It's not until relatively recently that the science of radon risk has been indisputable. But we know now that it's a leading cause of lung cancer and we need to disseminate that information."

 

Hahn also sees federal tax incentives for energy efficiency as a potential model for radon testing and mitigation.

 

For now, though, it's up to individuals to test their homes and pay for mitigation if necessary.  Many local health departments have radon programs and provide free radon test kits. Most testing is short term, lasting 3-7 days, and as easy as setting the testing envelope on a bookshelf. Long term tests of 90 days are encouraged if tobacco smoking occurs in the home. County radon coordinators can provide test kits, and the Kentucky State Radon Program offers free radon test kits in counties without an established radon program. Radon test kits can also be purchased at local home improvement stores for $15-$25. The tests are then mailed, usually free of charge, for processing, and the lab mails or emails the results.  Certified radon mitigation professionals can be found at  http://ky-radon.info/KY_nehalist.html.

 

"There's so much you can do to prevent lung cancer," Hahn said. "But with radon, you can't fix it if you don’t know you have a problem."

 

For more information about participating in the FRESH study, please call 859-323-4587 or email UKFRESH@lsv.uky.edu. More information about radon risk and mitigation is available at http://www.epa.gov/radon/pdfs/citizensguide.pdf.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Mallory Powell, Mallory.powell@uky.edu

 

see_discovery_uknow_4-26-14.jpeg
November
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
College of Pharmacy Open House
Iron Pour
UK Women's Choir 20th Anniversary Concert
Adventure Hiking & Rappelling @ Red River Gorge
Pickin' Time Mountain Music and Harvest Day
Purposeful Retirement: Planning Your Next Stage of Life
Diwali Dhoom 2014
Sat
2
UK Percussion Ensemble
Day Hike
Curator Tour: Take My Word For It
Sun
3
Industry Career Week: Resumes and Cover Letters
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Morehead State
Mon
4
Industry Career Week: How to Impress Your Boss in 90 Days
Rock Star Professionalism Series
UK Lab Band
Tue
5
Industry Career Week: Networking and Job Search
Social Enterprise and Innovation / Certified Nonprofit Professional Program Informational Meeting
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Appalachian Forum with Dr. Fran Ansley
Dana Harper Gallery Reception
Wed
6
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Zona Sur
LNFS Presents: The Grand Budapest Hotel
UK Jazz Ensemble
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Abstract Workshop
Lauren Potter
Thu
7
LNFS Presents: V for Vendetta
Last Day to Withdraw or Reduce Course Load
Circle of Love Name Distribution
R.C. May Photography Lecture Series: Marvin Heiferman
Men's Soccer vs. Charlotte
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Georgia
Free Friday Evening Swing Dance
Fri
8
Kentucky Football vs. Georgia
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
The Power of Poetry
The Lexington Lowdown and Free Lindy Hop Workshop
Swing Dance Featuring Live music by"The Metrognomes Orchestra"
Sat
9
UK Combos Concert
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Missouri
Sun
10
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Mon
11
UK Sax Ensembles
Job Club - Interviewing Strategies
Undergraduate Research Information Session
Jose Abisambra Presentation on Current Alzheimer's Research
Women of the World: Judy Smith
Tue
12
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: Reservoir Dogs
Refugee Life in America
#UKEDTALKS: International Opportunities for Education Majors
Leadership Assessment
Wed
13
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Iron Man 3
Chili and Pie Cook-Off Supper
#TrendingTopics: Vegetarians vs. Meat-Eaters
Campus Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics KY
LNFS Presents: La Demora
Thu
14
LNFS Presents: Pretty in Pink
LNFS Presents: Mean Girls
Fri
15
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Sat
16
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Florida
Greek Cinematography: Critical Approach and Discussion
"Storied Streets" Documentary Showing about Experiences of Homelessness
Sun
17
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
UK Rep Bands Concert
College of Agriculture, Food & Environment 2014 Celebration of Land-Grant Research
Amanda Rogers, "Black Flags, ISIS 'Swag' & Jihadi Rap: Marketing Militancy after the Arab Spring"
Stories of Homelessness: Panel Discussion
Mon
18
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
A Positive Approach to Caregiving Conference
Education Abroad Open House
CatWatch Party
Appalachian Forum and Film Screening of "Up the Ridge"
Tue
19
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
LNFS Presents: The Princess and the Frog
Pinterest Party
International Games Day
Global Design with Phil Duncan
Caregiver Support Group
OXFAM Social Issues Banquet
Wed
20
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
LNFS Presents: I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You
LNFS Presents: The Big Lebowski
International Education Week Keynote Speaker: Christie Vilsack, Senior Advisor for International Education at USAID
Tobacco-free Tailgate 5 Year Anniversary
Bollywood Night
Thu
21
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
LNFS Presents: Water For Elephants
4th Annual Markesbery Symposium on Aging & Dementia
Freedom from Fear: On Black Childhood and Other Dangers
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
MEAT.
Fri
22
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Sat
23
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
UK Symphony Band and UK Concert Band
Sun
24
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Mon
25
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Job Club - What is your money habitude?
Multicultural Student Thanksgiving Dinner
Tue
26
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Wed
27
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Thu
28
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Fri
29
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Arkansas
Sat
30
 
Sun
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reset Page