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Project with
American Lung Association


Radon gas is naturally occurring and is recognized as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Under a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Environmental Public Health Tracking program, a total of 486 short-term radon test kits were provided in November, 2016 to science teachers at five middle schools at different locations around the Commonwealth for distribution to their students for home use. In addition, a brief survey instrument was provided with the goal that the teachers would encourage adults in their students’ families to complete and return them.
As of mid-May, 2017 a total of 192 test kits had been returned to the laboratory for analysis, with 147 of those (30% of the test kits originally provided) yielding apparently valid results. Of the results reported, 50% were below the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), 30% were at least 4 pCi/L and less than 10 pCi/L, 12% between 10 and 20 pCi/L, and 7% between 20 and 50 pCi/L. Above these were two results, 75 pCi/L in Saylorsburg, Monroe County, and 202 pCi/L in Center Valley, Lehigh County.
A total of only 60 usable surveys were returned despite multiple requests for these from the teachers. The majority of the completed surveys were obtained from Ingomar Middle School in Allegheny County (I; 27) and from Southern Lehigh Middle School in Lehigh County (SL; 26). When likelihoods of performing actions (follow-up testing or radon repairs) were set to a scale (1 = No, 2 = Unlikely, 3 = Probably, 4 = Certainly will, and 5 = Already did) and were adjusted to remove a few results that appeared to have been gathered during the post-mitigation phase, it was clear that there was a positive association for average responses across their respective classes of radon results. Four level classes were used, ranging from "Less than 4 pCi/L" to "20 pCi/L and above," and are shown in identifying the markers on the graph. One way to display the results is given here, showing a strong relationship of average responses for radon repairs with respect to those for testing, by level class (r2 = 0.84 for SL; r2 = 0.94 for I).
Although participation was not at hoped-for levels for all of the recruited schools, it was nevertheless gratifying to observe the confirmation of the positive relationship between test result class and average degree of expectation of further action, even in these recruited populations (parents of students), as had been found several years ago among self-selected populations for carrying out the radon testing.
Kevin M. Stewart, Director of Environmental Health
American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic
Camp Hill, PA