CURES Seminar: "Reducing Radon Exposure: Community-Engaged Research with Citizens, Scientists, and Geologists"

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Date: February 27, 2020
Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Location: Integrative Biosciences Center 1D
Category: Seminar

The Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES) presents their Thursday afternoon seminar series on February 27, 2020 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the IBio Building in Seminar Room 1D, located at 6135 Woodward Ave.  The seminar is free and open to the entire University community.

The speaker will be Ellen Hahn, Ph.D., Professor and Director, College of Nursing and Public Health at the University of Kentucky.  Dr. Hahn will present "Reducing Radon Exposure: Community-Engaged Research with Citizens, Scientists, and Geologists".

Ellen J. Hahn, PhD, RN, FAAN, holds the Marcia A. Dake Endowed Professorship in the College of Nursing.  She is the director for UK-CARES (Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences; P30 ES026529) and Leader of the Community Engagement Core.  Dr. Hahn is also the Director for the Occupational and Envrionmental Health Nursing (OEHN) Core of the NIOSH-funded Central Appalachian Regional Education and Research Center (CARERC). Dr. Hahn also directs the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy and the BREATHE (Bridging Research Efforts and Advocacy Toward Healthy Environments) research team in the College of Nursing.  Dr. Hahn conducts community-engaged environmental health outreach and research to reduce risk from tobacco use, tobacco smoke exposure, and radon exposure especially in disparate rural, lower-income communities.  She leads two types of community-engaged research and outreach initiatives in implementation and dissemination sciences: 1) population-based environmental risk reduction intervention and observational studies; and, 2) development and testing of evidence-based policy advocacy interventions guided by stage of community readiness to promote policy change.  Dr. Hahn has worked with community partners to conduct several citizen science projects to reduce environmental risks from tobacco smoke and radon exposure.


Lung cancer, an enviromentally induced disease, is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the U.S., resulting in more than 220,000 new cases.  Cigarette smoking results in 80% of lung cancer related deaths, followed by radon and secondhand smoke exposure.  Radon is a natural radioactive gas produced by uranium in rock, soil, and water.  Radon is an environmental health hazard when trapped inside buildings.  Exposure to both radon and tobacco smoke synergizes the probability of lung cancer.  The lifetime risk of radon-induced lung cancer is 62 per 1,000 ever smokers compared to 7 per 1,000 never smokers.  Community members express concerns about radon exposure given the increase in fracking, the underlying bedrock geology, high smoking prevalence and secondhand smoke exposure, and high rates of lung cancer in the UK-CARES' target region.  Unfortunately, few residents are aware of the combined risk of tobacco smoke and radon exposure.  Further, socieconomic inequities create disproportionate risks of exposure and limited hazard remediation options for lung cancer prevention.  We have used a community-academic team approach and community-engaged research (CEnR) methods in multiple radon and synergistic risk studies.  First, Dr. Hahn will describe our novel geohealth partnership to develop, disseminate, and evaluate county-level geologic radon maps and infographics.  We developed a robust, predictive tool by integrating 28 years of observed home radon data (N = 70,000+) with a statewide 1:24,000-scale bedrock geologic map to create statiscally valid radon-potential estimates.  We then used the county-level maps linking the percent of homes tested for radon and all aspects of radon risk in the development of within-county risk infographics.  These new maps tell a very different story than the EPA radon maps.  Second, our BREATHE team at the University of Kentucky designed and tested a personalized, tailored report back intervention with homeowners and renters to reduce combined exposure to radon and tobacco smoke (R01 ES021502).  Hahn will share findings from our randomized controlled trial with the stratified quota sample of homeowners (N=515) in the south, recruited in outpatient clinics, university locations and community events.  Third, Hahn will describe a family-centered citizen science project to train and empower high school students and their teachers as citizen scientists to address environmental concerns about radon exposure in homes in rural Appalachia and urban Ohio.  Lastly, Dr. Hahn will discuss a transdisciplinary, community-academic team-led project designed to address community concerns about lung cancer by identifying geological and atmospheric conditions that increase radon intrusion into homes, translating this knowledge into greater residential awareness of risk, enabling home radon testing and report back, and growing access to affordable and adequate radon mitigation.  We conducted semi-structured key informant interviews with representatives from housing corporations, economic development, loan banks, and investment corporations to assess practical options for low-income homeowners to afford radon mitigation and identify potential partnerships.  Dr. Hahn will present outcomes from these selected CEnR studies.  Environmental public health professionals are in a unique position to educate the public about the importance of home radon testing, promote access to home test kits, and foster remediation.


Christina Cowen




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