About the author: Julia Ortiz joined EPA in April of 2008. She works in communications for the Office of Air and Radiation in Washington, DC.
January is National Radon Action Month, and I hope that it can be the time when you take a small step to protect your family by testing your home for radon. Until I started working at EPA, radon testing wasn’t on my radar, much less my to-do list. I have vague memories of hearing about it in high school chemistry class, but I never thought of it as something I should be concerned about. In my job as a communication specialist, I sift through a lot of meaningful statistics. This one really stands out – radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Knowing I could prevent something as serious as cancer with something as simple as a radon test astonished me.
Every day I have to explain a wide range of issues so that the public can easily understand them. In this case, my parents were my target audience – they hadn’t tested their home for radon. I bought them a radon test kit and dropped it off at their house. Little did I know that I was about to face my greatest communication challenge yet: my mom. When I arrived with the test kit, she eyed the package warily and asked dozens of questions. She was worried about what would happen if we found high radon levels, whether the test was accurate, and if it was even necessary. It took some convincing, but in the end she agreed that their health was paramount, and we sent off the test. When we get the results back, we will have the peace of mind of knowing that either our radon levels are low, or that they soon will be after we install a radon mitigation system.
More information to coax stubborn relatives can be found at www.epa.gov/radon.