Give Me Radon or Give Me Death!

I love the bizarre letters to the editor that pop up in our local newspaper. Here’s an incoherent ramble from someone defending his freedom to inhale all the radon he wants:

Before a law is passed that I have to stop inhaling radon gas, I would like to see a census of all coroners in the United States. Such a census needs to ask one question: “Over the past 15 years how many death certificates have you completed where the cause of death was stated as radon poisoning?”

Let’s have the Lancaster County coroner complete the first census and publish the results on the front page of the newspaper in large print. When the results come in from all of the other coroners, tabulate them and present them during the commercial spots of American Idol.

Then, once and for all, we’ll be able to determine if 20,000 people die from radon poisoning each year.

He’s apparently unaware that the cause of death in such cases would generally be listed as “lung cancer.” Long-term radon exposure is a significant contributing risk factor in the development of lung cancer; it isn’t exactly the same as “poisoning” in the sense of lead poisoning, for instance.

I have no idea what the heck American Idol has to do with anything. Come to think of it, lead poisoning may explain why this writer seems to insist on huffing radon gas as well as forbidding the gub’ment to have anything to say or do about a sizable, expensive, and easily prevented public health problem.

At any rate, “Give me radon or give me death!” would make a pretty lousy libertarian battle cry, since it’s a rare case where you really can have your cake and eat it, too.


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2 Responses to “Give Me Radon or Give Me Death!”

  1. Torrey Says:

    I would be interested in knowing how they intend to enforce the law banning the inhalation of radon… Does Pennsylvania have enough prison cells for… everyone?

  2. ianheath653 Says:

    Pennsylvania actually doesn’t have any statewide codes dealing with radon. According to the EPA (, 13 municipalities in PA have made the “IRC Appendix F” code mandatory, and six of those are in Lancaster County (this is definitely a big radon area out here). That’s what the guy appears to be yammering about, since he’s from one of them. The code basically says that new home construction in areas with radon concentrations over a certain amount has to be designed a certain way to dissipate the radon in the air to a much safer level. Actually, you probably know a lot more about the details of how it works than I do.

    At any rate, I stand firmly by my lead poisoning theory to explain the letter’s origin.

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