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Okay, here's the deal: We have to put our heads together and figure out what it will take to get people to test for radon. Let's face it, radon is not sexy, good tasting, thrilling, ego enhancing, entertaining, or fun. Fixing radon is not like fixing a flat tire. It's not an urgent or immediate problem that demands attention.

As I write this, it is Academy Awards Night. The entertainment industry markets movies to people who want some release from the pressures of every day life. The product may be sexy, thrilling, death defying, dramatic or funny but people go to movies to be entertained. The marketing is done through ads, trailers, movie critics, and of course, talk show appearances of the beautiful people we know as movie stars.

The automotive tire industry, on the other hand is very utilitarian in it's product and marketing. When our tires wear out, we need new ones to be safe (and legal). Most folks look for some combination of tire quality, price and convenience in choosing a dealer. Dealers play on those three items in ads touting location, sales and name brands.

But what about radon? It's not entertaining and it's not necessary for our transportation. What's the key to marketing radon tests? More Information? Fear? Avoidance of cancer 20 years from now? Protection for our family and children (and friends who visit us)? Morality (it's the right thing to do)?

I need your help in coming up with some snappy marketing glitz that will get people's attention and make them act. The EPA has tons of information, but it hasn't done a very good job of marketing. So here's the plan: Let's have a contest (no prizes, just glory, recognition, praise, the challenge of creating something useful, and just good clean fun) to come up with some marketing gimmicks to sell folks on getting a radon test. Put your creative, marketing thinking caps on and let's go!

Feel free to add to this list: (It may help to think outside the box!)

Publicity Categories:

Press releases

Newspaper ads or PSA's (Public Service Announcements)

Email ads

Internet ads and web sites

Radio ads or PSA's

TV ads or PSA's

The EPA has produced some PSA's that are available FREE to TV stations. Call your local TV station and request that they air these informational messages.
Click here to view the PSA's.



Audience Types:


Young Adult

Middle Age

Retired Folks


Old Hippies





Get Bob Dylan, the Wall Flowers, or (insert your favorite musical group) to do a radio PSA (also Video for TV) using one of his many popular songs, rewritten to include some not so subtle radon information.

Have rock concert benefits for radon cancer victims and survivors. CANSAR (Cancer Survivors Against Radon) can lend support. ( http://www.cansar.org )

Press release about local hot spots and efforts to clean up especially bad houses.

Get a famous celebrity to take on radon testing as a pet charity, with telethons and phone banks.

Get famous people to test for and fix radon in their Beverly Hills mansions, with appropriate publicity.

Radon art displays at art showings and galleries.

Revive the National Radon Poster Contest at the State and Local level.

Kids say "Test our home for radon," similar to the "Kids say Don't Smoke" poster campaign against smoking, or the fire safety poster contests. Get schools to sponsor radon poster contests.

Post signs: You are entering a Radon Safe Zone.

Got the idea? Send your ideas and comments to:


We will publish all great ideas here. If anyone wants to take off on any of these suggestions, be my guest, just report your results to us.

Thanks for helping spread the word about radon testing.

Radon Promotion

In January, 2009, I listed the following comments on the Radon Professionals List Serv email list. It generated quite a response, many of which are listed below as a resource for others wishing to pursue the topic. This is not a blog or a forum, but there is a forum on these ideas and others about radon at http://www.radonleaders.org.

1.23.09 Jeff Miner,
The Psychology of Radon.

Have we learned anything in the last 30 years about why most people would rather avoid radon than deal with it? I did some research and found two Rutgers University professors (emeritus) who have spent their careers studying why people sometimes react to high risk situations with apathy and to low risk situations with outrage. Radon is a good example of a high risk issue with a low outrage response.

Peter Sandman and Neil D. Weinstein have developed the theory that RISK = HAZARD + OUTRAGE. They have studied radon testing and mitigation and classify it as a HIGH HAZARD with LOW OUTRAGE issue.

Peter Sandman's paper on radon: http://www.psandman.com/index-PA.htm#rad
Paper on risk: http://www.psandman.com/index-PA.htm

It may be time to re-examine these 20 year old studies, as we try to understand why our current promotional efforts have not had the overwhelming success we so desire in alerting the public to radon awareness and action. I think there could be more participation from psychologists and behavioral scientists in designing radon promotional campaigns. We could invite these gentlemen to speak on radon risk communication at our Radon Symposium in September (they charge), or at the very least hold a round table discussion on radon risk communication (no, I'm am not volunteering to lead it).

The next great challenge for the radon community may not be how to design a better radon fan, or even medical advances in the study of lung cancer, but rather how to cause an apathetic public (and our public officials) to be "outraged" by the unacceptable risks of radon exposure. Psychology is the key to that goal.

Jeff Miner
Radon At Tahoe

1.24.09 William Field, Three Mile Island Revisited 25 Years Later Report

1.24.09 Ray Johnson,
Jeff: I have also struggled with issues on radiation risk perceptions for about 30 years, both among lay persons and radiation professionals. For example, while I served as President of the Radon Section of the Health Physics Society, I was surrounded with health physicists who did not believe radon was a real risk. I have published several papers on these matters in AARST proceedings as follows: http://www.aarst.org/proceedings/1995/1995_07_Why_Scientists_and_the_Public_ Do_Not_Believe_in_Rado.pdf

http://www.aarst.org/proceedings/1994/1994_34_Marketing_Panel--Credibility_W ith_Radon_Customers.pdf

http://www.aarst.org/proceedings/1993/1993_01_Source_of_Radon_Risk_Perceptio ns_For_Radon_Professio.pdf

http://www.aarst.org/proceedings/1991/1991_03_Motivating_Homeowners_to_Test_ and_Mitigate_For_Radon.pdf

http://www.aarst.org/proceedings/1996/1996_33_Radon_Risk_Communication_With_ Attorneys_and_Jurors.pdf

Perhaps some of these articles may be of interest. Many of my insights on risk perception issues come from several years of training which I pursued in the mid-1970s to qualify for practicing psychological counseling. As a CHP I keep getting pulled into technical radiation issues, therefore, I have never gone into counseling as a full time service, but have practiced over the years as a volunteer in my church. For example, I have been a commissioned Stephen Minister since 2003, where my role is care provider and counselor. I am also now writing a book chapter on "NORM Communication Issues - A case Study" for a book on NORM to be the textbook for a Health Physics Society Professional Development School in July 2009 In addition I am the Academic Dean and will be compiling a book for a Health Physics Society Professional Development School in 2010, on Radiation Risk Communication - Issues and Solutions. This book will be about 400-500 pages with 15 authors including myself. Best wishes. Warmest regards, Ray Johnson, MS, PE, FHPS, CHP Vice President, Training Programs Dade Moeller & Associates Radiation Safety Academy Division 438 N. Frederick Avenue, Suite 220 Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877 Ray.Johnson@Moellerinc.com

1.26.09 Jeff Miner
Ray, Thanks for the links to your work and the PowerPoint by William Field.   I was able to get to them by copying the full address, as Martin Smith suggested.  There has obviously been some serious study on the psychology of radon and why the public and the news tend to ignore it.  What we need now is to apply what we already know.  Designing promotional campaigns with the public's lack of OUTRAGE as the main point, or using their apathy as the catch phrase.  "Sell the sizzle, not the steak!"  This is the realm of promotion, advertising, public opinion and trend setting, not an area for scientists and technologists.  We may need engineers to design cars, but we need marketing types to sell them.  Lets give our problem to the best Madison Avenue advertising firms and see what they can do with it.  Money is no problem.  They will probably want to donate their time for a good cause, if we pitch it right and make it an "impossible" problem that they just can't wait to solve.  I'm serious.  I know it sounds naive, and yes it may be, but let's see what we can get done for free by the brightest minds in the advertising business.  They are loosing cash customers right now with the economy in the tank and they may just have some bright young advertising execs with time on their hands. I'll put some time into it if anyone has some ideas or leads.   Maybe we can get some of President Obama's $850 billion economic stimulus package funds to run the ads on TV.  Let's make some waves!

Jeff Miner
Radon At Tahoe

1.26.09 Phil Jenkins
I was struck by the attention that the salmonella outbreak in peanut butter is getting, and certainly the illness and deaths that have been caused are a tragedy....but how does that compare with the illness and deaths caused by exposure to radon?  But.......you can't identify the specific people suffering from the effects of radon, the effect is not immediate, there is no one to point your finger at and sue.....etc., etc.  Psychology is not my thing. Phil

Phillip H. Jenkins, PhD, CHP
Senior Health Physicist
Bowser-Morner, Inc.
Mail: P.O. Box 51 - Dayton, OH 45401
Web: www.bowser-morner.com

1.26.09 William Field
Kristy Miller at EPA is the point person for the EPA on these issues.  She has been working for years on "Social Marketing" that incorporates the understanding of risk perception.

1.27.09 William Field
We also need more research dollars spent on radon health studies.  There may be numerous cancers and other adverse health outcomes related to radon exposure, but there are 0 funds being spent on radon epidemiologic research in the United States.  I am supporting what research I am performing out of pocket.

I have been working with a family that unknowingly had a mine drilled under their home.  The mother of the family died yesterday morning with small cell lung cancer 3 month after diagnosis.  They never tested for radon until last week. The radon test results came back (35 pCi/L) the day before she died.   Another statistic, except to her family and friends.  

1.26.09 Kevin Stewart
Hi Jeff, I agree with the need for marketers to do their jobs that scientists are often so ill-equipped to do -- thinking that a logical exposition of facts will be sufficient to motivate. But a word of caution: I recall that one time the "Madison Avenue" types were tasked with doing radon ads (i.e, the Ad Council campaign), we got the attention-getting "X-ray campaign" that immediately got attacked by a number of scientists and health physicists as "irresponsible," "inaccurate," "fear-mongering" "emotional appeals." (I personally liked "radon is dangerous in this area" showing an x-ray of the lungs as truthful on two levels -- and a good play on words -- but there are folks today who continue to feel that that type of ad was wrong.) Good luck.

Kevin M. Stewart
Director of Environmental Health American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic
Serving the communities of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia
The Norman P. Hetrick Building 3001 Old Gettysburg Road Camp Hill, PA 17011
HelpLine: 1-800-LUNG-USA ext. 2
Web page: lunginfo.org

1.26.09 Jim Krueger
What you are talking about doing isn't too far afield from what the EPA did back in the late 1980's. The EPA combined with the Ad Council to develop radon ads that were aired throughout the country. AARST or others might be able to draw some data out of the EPA regarding the successes and failures of those media programs. The EPA had an 800 number that was part of the campaign. I would think that EPA still has the data indicating what % of a given market responded over what period of time after an ad was run. The Ad Council could probably tell you where those responses rank in comparison to other issues that they champion. If I remember correctly the response to the Ad Council was mixed at best. I believe they had a moderate level of responses from higher risk states and much fewer responses from low risk states. I'm certain that Ray and Phil remember the old Radon ads that were run. Ray might even have a copy of the series of papers that the EPA presented at various conferences regarding this topic. Bear in mind that the papers published by the EPA regarding the “success” of the Ad Council campaign were written to show that EPA had been good stewards of the federal dollars they committed in support of the Ad Council campaign – in other words, there could be some positive bias in what was published by EPA.

It is also important to understand that the Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization that marshals volunteer talent from Madison Avenue advertising agencies and is provided free air time by the communications industries. The Ad Council produces, distributes and promotes thousands of public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies in issue areas such as improving the quality of life for children, preventative health, education, community well being, environmental preservation and strengthening families. Could they be ripe for another go at radon? Possibly, but you'll never know unless you ask. I would recommend that you gain a complete understanding about how the Ad Council works and then develop an attractive package that aligns with their core values before approaching them. Good luck.

Jim Krueger

1.26.09 Al Gehart
One of the problems is self imposed and represented in the name of this List Server, "Professionals".   Not saying things can be done otherwise, but a good analogy is watching the granite controversy play out.  The research side is restrained, professional, understating the information with lots of conditional statements.   The stone industry is unrestrained,  doesn't use peer reviewed info from independent scientists, and says just about anything that they wish.  Their bold statements are taken by the public as proof of their truth, the conditional statements are taken as proof that our side isn't really sure.   With a little education, consumers would know otherwise. Basically the same has occurred, in my opinion, with soil based Radon.  I've seen a few debates on line, Hormesis is usually dragged out, attacks on LNT theory, claims that Radon can't be tracked back to cancer cases.   The opponents have few arguments that stand up , but boy do they shout loud. What Radon might need is a separate group, AKA James Carville, pit bulls instead of reasoned researchers.   Somebody needs to shake things up. Another point is the unwillingness use the average consumer's fear of radiation.   It is a visceral fear, which is why I think many are unwilling to invoke it.   Me, I've developed a healthy respect for Radon, when I open the hatch of our Radon room, I wear a HEPA half face mask and open an overhead door.   What might be needed is to take off the gloves and start scaring the bejesus out of consumers with the facts.  CANSAR is an excellent  start. The best advice I ever received was to decide what you really want, then pay the price and take  it.  Just a view from outside the industry.   I could be wrong. Al

1.26.09 Mike Booth
I wouldn't count on EPA, not because of anything they would do, but the perception of the public.  Look at USA Today and the story on auto emissions.  People understand that issue better than radon, yet there are 100's of comments to the story, against EPA. They don't trust EPA on climate change either.  I don't think we could convince these people with anything.  That doesn't mean we quit trying, it just means we get used to the idea we're going to have a headache sometimes from beating our heads against a wall.


Mike Boothe
Johnson County Environmental Dept.
Environmental Compliance Manager-Air Quality
11811 S. Sunset
Suite 2700
Olathe, KS 66061

1.26.09 Robb Packer
If we as Measurement Professionals made a concerted effort to contact all local schools and did presentations, we would get a better response and therefore better data by virtue of having many more homes to test. Robb Packer
Metrospect Ltd.
Professional Building Consultants

1.26.09 Alan Peterson, M.D.
There is also another approach.

That is a “grassroots” local approach. It takes us (and others) at a local level to get involved. In our small township of Pequea Township in Lancaster County , Pa. , (pop. about 4,500) we tested all homes that wished to be tested and made that part of our “anonymous” public findings. We talked it up for years, as many were elevated, and when the time (politically) was correct, we passed a radon ordinance that applies to all new home building in the township.

I think we need a combined approach both from the highest agencies and arms of the govt, as well as the “grassroots” level, if possible.

Alan S. Peterson, MD
Lancaster General Hospital
Associate Director Family Practice Residency
Director of Environmental and Community Medicine
317 S. Chestnut Street
Quarryville , PA   17566

1.26.09 Andy George
I believe the only sound way to motivate the public for radon testing has to come from EPA. Radon professionals and the radon industry alone cannot do it. People do not trust the industry because it is perceived as an entity that promotes something to increase its business. EPA, with a new administrator must publicize the health effects of radon and push for an aggresive radon measurement program . EPA claims that 21,000 radon deaths occur annually. Hope they build on that and move forward and do what they are assigned to do. Keep the good work.
Andy George

1.26.09 Trudy Y. Smith
Jeff, I have been asked to make an initial contact with the folks you mentioned to see what might be involved in getting a presentation at the AARST conference.  AARST does NOT pay stipends for speaking and unless it's a severe hardship case, they do not pay travel.  So that might eliminate these gentlemen altogether.  However, this is my initial stab at researching what it would take to get a presentation.  My role is as Chair of the 2009 AARST Symposium in St. Louis.


1.27.09 Jeff Miner
Bill, Kevin, Andy, Mike, Jim, Ray, Al, Robb, and Alan,
Thank you all for responding to the idea that we should actively pursue better public awareness of radon risk.  I have attempted to condense your comments into an 8 item To Do list which I propose we assign to an AARST committee on promotions or marketing or call it "risk awareness communication", to examine the issue and to report back to the membership.  I have listed your comments on the Marketing page under the Future tab at my web site http://www.RadonAtTahoe.com

To Do List on Radon Risk Awareness:

1. Form an AARST committee to accomplish the items on this list. I, for one, would be willing to serve on that committee.

2. Examine the role of AARST in the promotion of risk awareness as opposed to their role in the promotion of the science of radon, so we avoid being accused of "fear mongering," as Kevin Stewart warned.

3. Coordinate with the EPA, using Kristy Miller as our contact person, as William Field suggested. Understand the benefits of using the EPA as a promoter of radon risk awareness because the industry is often viewed as being self serving, as Andy George pointed out, yet understand EPA's limitations and sometimes lack of public credibility, as Mike Booth suggested.

4. Coordinate with the Ad Council and understand their history of radon ads, as Jim Kruger suggested.

5. Review the existing reports and studies relating to risk communication from past AARST conferences, as Ray Johnson suggested.

6. Invite such experts as Peter Sandman and Neil Weinstein, and others in the risk communication field to address our annual conferences, as Jeff Miner suggested and Trudy Smith is investigating.

7. Understand our options and power in the radon debate and know when to "take the gloves off," as Al Gerhart suggested. In other words, define our goals and then create a strategy and game plan for getting there.

8. Develop goals and strategies at the national, state, local and grass roots level to encourage AARST members to promote radon risk awareness at whatever levels they are comfortable with, as Robb Packer and Dr. Alan Peterson suggest.

This is certainly not the end of the discussion on how AARST might contribute to increasing public awareness and acceptance that radon as a high risk hazard. I am sure there will be many opinions within the AARST membership on how and why a scientific organization should approach or should not approach the warm fuzzy social sciences of public opinion and emotional appeals. We may feel we have the science of radon pretty well tied down, but judging from the results so far, we have a long way to go to convince the public that it's a problem worthy of their time and effort to correct. If "Working together to save lives" is really our motto, scientists may have to step outside their comfort zone and learn to work with marketers.