Radon awareness poster contest comes back to Oregon

By Lillian Mongeau Hughes (OPB)
Jan. 17, 2023 2 p.m.

Children and teens are invited to submit posters spreading awareness about the importance of testing homes for this invisible, cancer-causing poison

The youth of Oregon are invited to participate in a newly revived poster contest warning of the dangers of radon as part of National Radon Action Month, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that can build up in homes and cause cancer. There are hotspots for the gas throughout the country, including in several regions of Oregon. Portland and the Willamette Valley, the area around Grants Pass and Medford, and the city of La Grande all have an underlying geology that makes them more likely to have higher radon levels in the air, according to Jara Popinga, the radon program coordinator of the Oregon Health Authority.

shows a superhero with a radon testing kit

This was the winning poster for National Radon Action Month in 2015. It was created by a teenager in Kentucky.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

“I think it’s just an opportunity for kids to learn about radon — it could be a potential science topic,” Popinga said. She said it could also be “another avenue to get the attention of parents and hopefully… they can learn both about the topic and learn more about radon and how to reduce their risk.”

Popinga said she’s glad Oregon will be participating in the national poster contest again after a 10-year hiatus, since it’s a good way to remind parents about the importance of radon testing. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and smokers living in houses with high concentrations of radon are 10 times more likely to get lung cancer.


Past contest winners have shown images of morgue toe tags (“Rae Dawn; Cause of death: Radon”), rows of houses with a bleak question about which one contains the invisible poison, and skeletons. A more positively oriented winner from 2015 shows a superhero carrying a radon test kit.

pencil drawing of feet sticking out from a blanket and a toe tag for Rae Dawn, who has died of radon poisoning

This poster, warning of the dangers of radon, won eighth place in a national contest overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015. It was created by a California teenager.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The concentration of radon in a given area is dependent on its geology. Significant underlying granite can cause higher concentrations of radon, for example. In the case of the Columbia River Gorge and the Willamette Valley, radon is emitted from ancient uranium deposits leftover from the Missoula floods thought to have covered the region at the end of the Ice Age.

Radon in outdoor air is not a danger. But at higher concentrations it can be deadly. Older houses that have recently been made more airtight are especially in need of testing, as are houses built on a slab foundation. Testing is the only way to know if any given home has too much radon. Free test kits are available for people in certain Oregon zip codes or kits can be purchased at most hardware stores for about $30, Popinga said. There are also several other options for reduced price tests, including from the American Lung Association and Nonprofit Home Inspections.

This poster was submitted to the Oregon Health Authority the last time the state participated in the national poster contest for Radon Action Month in 2013, according to state officials.

This poster was submitted to the Oregon Health Authority the last time the state participated in the national poster contest for Radon Action Month in 2013, according to state officials.

Oregon Health Authority

The Idaho Department of Welfare is leading the regional contest, which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, the Nez Perce and the Spokane tribes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the national contest.

Submission rules and entry forms are available through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Students can be entered by either their parents or a teacher.


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