Radon and Shoshone County cancer levels

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Dear Editor:

Thank you for presenting the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UPWHI) data on Shoshone County’s general health ranking in Idaho.

Being second from the bottom in general health indicates serious problems.

I’m writing now as a “bad news bear(er)” because the physical environment category does not include all causes of cancer mortality. I must comment now on environment as interpreted by Idaho DEQ.

When I called attention to high levels of radon in the Silver Valley, the DEQ’s response was, “radon is not in the environment; it is in the homes.” Their response belies reality. Radon is in the Silver Valley homes because home foundations are built in the soils. The fact that radon is eight times heavier than air accounts for high concentrations in crawl spaces and basements. Radon is found in uranium ores, phosphate rock, shales, igneous and metamorphic rocks, and to a lesser degree, in common rocks such as limestone. Every square mile of earth’s surface soil, to a depth of 6 inches contains approximately 1 gram of radium, which releases radon in small amounts to the atmosphere.

A fact sheet from the Cancer Data Registry of Idaho, Idaho Hospital Association - Shoshone County Cancer Profile - Cancer Mortality 2010-2014 - http://www.idcancer.org provides sobering information.

Mortality Data for Shoshone County from 2010-2014

Observed deaths from all causes: 918 Expected deaths: 677

Cancer deaths, all malignant cancers: 219 Expected deaths: 152

Lung and Bronchus Cancers: 75 Expected deaths: 36.8

Deaths from lung and bronchus cancers in Shoshone County are more than double what is demographically expected. That fact does not surprise me. Average radon levels in Shoshone County are seven times higher than the latest World Health Organization’s action level.

Bob Launhardt

Pinehurst, Idaho

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