UK equipment grant will allow KGS scientists to validate radon potential maps
Geologist Bethany Overfield’s radon research has received new stimulus from an equipment grant from the office of UK Vice President for Research Lisa Cassis. Overfield’s proposal for a portable field radon detector was one of 24 applications that received funding in the Fall 2017 Minor Research Equipment Competition sponsored by Cassis’s office. Overfield has worked with the UK College of Nursing on radon issues, resulting in maps showing areas of higher radon potential in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can cause cancer, and its carcinogenic effects increase when combined with cigarette smoking or exposure to smoking.
Overfield says the Durridge Rad7 Radon Detector will allow her to validate the information behind her radon potential maps. “I’m really excited to be getting this piece of equipment. I’ll be able to gather my own data and compare it to the dataset I used to create the radon potential maps, which were based on residential radon test kits. This will enable me to validate the radon potential maps and will also allow me to assess areas where little data exists.”
The award will also help her expand her radon research into the groundwater arena, since the detector includes an attachment for testing water. “Radon exposure in groundwater is a potential health issue for folks who are on domestic water wells, and there are quite a few households using domestic wells in Kentucky.” Using the data from the maps she developed for the College of Nursing, Overfield plans to test domestic water wells in areas with higher potential for radon emissions to determine whether the water also contains radon.
“Radon is released from water when the water is agitated. If your water is piped directly into your home from groundwater, it’s initially agitated when it’s released into the air through faucets. Unfortunately, this occurs when people are normally in close proximity to faucets, as when folks are showering or doing the dishes. Using the RAD7 to get a handle on this risk for Kentuckians is a top priority for me.”
Overfield plans to focus the groundwater radon work in south-central Kentucky, where there are a lot of domestic water wells.