But our voices are too few
Atlanta, GA (PRWEB) January 13, 2009
For 22 years, the public has paid little attention to EPA radon warnings. There are more American families at risk of dangerous radon exposure today than when the Agency's radon program began in 1986. But, on those rare opportunities when apparent victims of radon-induced lung cancer can share their personal experiences, people listen. As soon as Liz Hoffmann told her story on WCCO Television in Minneapolis, over 30,000 viewers called to order a radon test kit from the health department. Soon thereafter, the Minnesota legislature passed a law requiring new homes to be constructed with radon-resistant building features.
After Gloria Linnertz shared the loss of her husband Joe to every state senator and representative in Illinois, a bill requiring all home buyers to be warned about the risk of radon exposure was introduced to the Illinois legislature. Once Barbara Sorgatz joined Gloria to make a public appeal for the bill's passage on Chicago's CBS2 Television, it helped convince the State House to pass the Illinois Radon Awareness Act.
So the way to prevent 21,000 Americans from contracting radon-induced lung cancer every year sounds simple enough -- rally radon victims to take to the streets, warn the populace and demand action from our policy makers. If it were only that simple. If the patient ever smoked, the cause is assumed to be smoking; for the 17% of lung cancers patients who never smoked, the cause is usually undetermined.
"And, the few of us, like me, who have linked the cause to radon exposure, are struggling to survive. It's difficult to create an advocacy group when 85% of the victims die within 4-5 years of being diagnosed."
That is why AARST is now assisting CanSAR with a program aimed at helping lung cancer patients, particularly non-smokers determine if radon exposure was the apparent cause.
Dr. Lane Mathis Price, Director and Radiation Oncologist at Decatur General Oncology Center, is one of the few oncologists who insist on patients having their home tested for radon. "People come into my office and say Doc Price I just don't understand it. How can this happen to me? I don't smoke. Nobody ever smokes around me. How can I have lung cancer?
The U.S. EPA ranks radon as the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. According to Dr. Price, if a lung cancer patient with no history of smoking determines she has been exposed to elevated radon concentrations in her home for a number of years, it is reasonable to conclude that radon was the likely cause.
Dr. Price readily acknowledges that many oncologists are so focused on lung cancer treatment they give little thought to a cause other than smoking. For most non-smoking victims, the likely explanation remains a mystery.
When Dennie Edwards, a real estate agent from Elyria, Ohio was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004, he could not believe it. A former Marine who always kept himself in prime physical condition, he went out of his way to avoid cigarette smoke. Although his doctor did not offer any explanations, as a Realtor, Dennie was aware that EPA recommends all home buyers have a radon test performed prior to purchase.
"Even though I've been a real estate agent for 31 years, I had never bothered to test my house for radon. I always informed my clients that radon testing prior to purchase was an option (to protect my liability), but truthfully, I really didn't care if they tested or not," said Dennie when interviewed for Healthline, a program hosted by Kevin Soden on Retirement Living Television.
"Now I had to wonder whether my lung cancer had been caused by radon exposure. While the doctor scheduled my surgery, I scheduled a radon test. The result was 10 pCi/L, 2 1/2 times the EPA's recommended Action Level. I had lived in the home for 12 years. Needless to say, I called a contractor to have a mitigation system installed."
Before he passed away last June, Dennie took every opportunity his health would allow to speak out about the importance of radon testing.
"But our voices are too few," says Linnertz. "Care providers must do a better job of informing patients that radon exposure could be the reason they have lung cancer. Once they realize a simple radon test of their home may identify the likely cause, they want to know. They want to protect their loved ones; they want to warn others."
If you or a family member has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, AARST will send you a free radon test. Simply go to Cancer Survivors Against Radon and click on CanSAR Registry. Fill out the form and submit. A free test kit will be mailed in 3-4 weeks.
If the test reveals an average radon concentration at or above EPA's 4.0 pCi/L Action Level, consider contacting CanSAR volunteer Gloria Linnertz at 618-830-4660. Having her post your story on the CanSAR website may be the first of many opportunities for you to convince others how important it is to prevent radon exposure.