The coronavirus has significantly impacted the lives of Kentuckians over the past several months. Major events have been cancelled. Schools have been closed. Business has come to a grinding halt. The terms ‘quarantine’ and ‘social-distancing’ have become common. We even receive daily updates from our governor regarding our ongoing response to this public health emergency. To be certain, the changes to our daily lives have been sudden and drastic, all caused by a silent killer – the coronavirus.
The similarities between radon, a cancer-causing, radioactive gas found in hazardous concentrations in almost 50% of all Kentucky buildings, and the coronavirus are striking. Both involve public health. Both have taken the lives of hundreds of Kentuckians this year. Both have created enormous economic burdens. Both are silent killers. And both can be prevented by avoiding exposure. The difference in how Kentucky has responded to the coronavirus versus how it has responded to radon is also striking, which begs to question, “What if Kentucky responded to radon like it’s responding to the coronavirus?”
If Kentucky responded to radon like it’s responding to the coronavirus, swift action would be taken by our policymakers to mitigate exposure to radon. Buildings where we learn, work, and play would be monitored to ensure occupants aren’t unknowingly being exposed to unsafe concentrations of radon gas. And when unsafe concentrations of radon are identified, a mitigation system would be installed on the building to effectively manage occupant exposure. Persons buying a home would be empowered to make an informed decision regarding radon in their new home through effective notification and disclosure policies. Newly constructed buildings would include a passive ventilation system for more efficient and economical management of radon intrusion and require testing prior to occupancy. The result of implementing common sense radon policy would be healthier, safer buildings where occupants aren’t being unknowingly exposed to cancer-causing, radioactive radon gas.
The response to the coronavirus in our state proves our policymakers are capable of acting quickly. Why haven’t these same policymakers reacted as quickly to the ongoing pandemic caused by radon? Exposure to radon claims the lives of approximately 500 Kentuckians every year. Losing a loved one to a preventable disease has a tragic impact on Kentucky families. The financial burden created by the nearly $200 million dollars in direct and indirect costs caused by radon-induced lung cancer each year is alarming. Yet, our policymakers continue to ignore the unnecessary deaths and financial burden caused by this terrible disease.
To be certain, if Kentucky responded to radon like it’s responding to the coronavirus, the impact on preventing radon-induced lung cancer and the number of lives saved would be significant. Maybe the question we should be asking is, “Why isn’t Kentucky responding to radon like it’s responding to the coronavirus?”