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WKU graduate, faculty members publish research on indoor radon

Southeastern Geographer, a peer-reviewed journal specializing in research conducted in local and regional environments, recently published an article on indoor radon by former WKU geoscience graduate student A.J. Iovanna and his thesis advisors Dr. John All and Dr Andrew Wulff.

Iovanna (from St. Louis) completed his master’s program at WKU in 2005 after working for a year on collecting and analyzing radon samples from Warren County. He currently works in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. government in geospatial analysis.

The authors argue that indoor radon is a major preventable health problem and that determination of risk factors contributing to gas accumulation in homes would help in remediation efforts. Iovanna’s research examined four specific radon risk factors using geoinformatics techniques to evaluate contributions to residential radon vulnerability. He conducted a statistical analysis of 205 radon samples collected between 2004–2005 in Warren County, Kentucky, and determined that 1) homes with basements and 2) homes built before 1977 have a higher probability for radon levels above the EPA action level of 4 pCi/l (picoCuries per liter) than any other type of structure analyzed. Homes above 140 square meters (1500 square feet) in size did not have a significantly higher chance of having a radon level above 4 pCi/l than did homes below 140 square meters in area. Also, the depth to the Chattanooga Shale, a suspected source of radon, did not have a significant impact on the measured levels. It is likely that another source of uranium, soil or limestone, contributes to radon loading in homes.

According to Dr. David Keeling, head of WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology, “this type of applied research conducted by our geoscience students makes an important contribution to the local community. Our goal in encouraging student-centered research is to address issues that are important for local and regional quality of life. A.J.’s research on indoor radon has helped to focus attention on this little studied and poorly understood threat to public health.”

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