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Relationship of Perception of Radon as a Health Risk and Willingness to Engage in Radon Testing and Mitigation

L. Tammy Duckworth
Marilyn Frank-Stromborg
William A. Oleckno
Pam Duffy
Kenneth Burns
ONF 2002, 29(7), 1099-1107 DOI: 10.1188/02.ONF.1099-1107

Purpose/Objectives: To gather data on radon levels and determine correlations among subjects' characteristics, willingness to test for radon, and perceptions of radon as a health risk.

Design: Descriptive correlational.

Setting: Rural DeKalb County in northern Illinois.

Sample: 473 respondents from a group of 1,620 randomly selected county residences.

Methods: Participants were surveyed via telephone using the Community Radon Program questionnaire. Radon measurements were taken with home radon test kits.

Main Research Variables: Gender, income, age, educational level, smoking status, race, home ownership, willingness to test for radon, and radon risk perception.

Findings: Most participants were familiar with radon but did not view it as an immediate health hazard and would not have screened for radon on their own. 88% of the radon measurements exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's moderate risk potential level, and 53% exceeded the action level (i.e., 4 pCi/L).

Conclusions: Perception of radon as a health risk was correlated positively with planning to conduct further radon testing and to employ radon mitigation methods. More research is needed on people's willingness to obtain radon emission levels and the cancer rates in areas that have high potential for radon.

Implications for Nursing: According to the environmental literature, the effect of household radon emissions on the development of lung cancer is as great a health risk as secondhand smoke. Virtually no nursing literature on the subject has been published. As the primary source of health information in many rural counties, nurses, especially public health nurses, are at the forefront in public health educational efforts. Nurses are the most likely healthcare professionals to enter patients' homes and can play a significant role in disseminating information about radon as a potential carcinogen.

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