High School Students as Citizen Scientists to Decrease Radon Exposure

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Dec 8;17(24):9178. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17249178.


Residents in rural Kentucky (KY) and suburban Ohio (OH) expressed concerns about radon exposure and lung cancer. Although 85% of lung cancer cases are caused by tobacco smoke, radon exposure accounts for 10-15% of lung cancer cases. Academic and community members from the University of KY and the University of Cincinnati developed and pilot-tested a family-centered, youth-engaged home radon testing toolkit. The radon toolkit included radon information, and how to test, interpret, and report back findings. We educated youth as citizen scientists and their teachers in human subjects protection and home radon testing using the toolkit in the classroom. Youth citizen scientists explained the study to their parents and obtained informed consent. One hundred students were trained in human subjects protection, 27 had parental permission to be citizen scientists, and 18 homeowners completed surveys. Radon values ranged from < 14.8 Bq/m3 to 277.5 Bq/m3. Youth were interested and engaged in citizen science and this family-centered, school-based project provided a unique opportunity to further the healthy housing and quality education components of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Further research is needed to test the impact of student-led, family-centered citizen science projects in environmental health as part of school curricula.

Keywords: cancer prevention; citizen science; lung cancer; radon; youth-engaged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / analysis
  • Citizen Science*
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Lung Neoplasms
  • Ohio
  • Radon* / analysis
  • Schools
  • Students*


  • Radon