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The next presentation in the Southwestern Oregon Community College Geology Lecture Series features professor Scott Burns speaking about “Radon — the Invisible Geological Killer.”

The talk will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 13, through the college livestream at https://livestream.com/swocc/geology2020-21.

Burns is a professor emeritus of geology at Portland State University who specializes in engineering and environmental geology, soils, geomorphology, quaternary geology and Terroir.

Radon is a natural, invisible, tasteless and non-smelling gas that naturally comes out of the ground all over the world. It gets trapped in homes as people try to conserve heat.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon now causes 20 percent of all the lung cancer deaths in North America.

For more than 30 years, Burns has led a team of students at Portland State University studying the problem.

The lecture will discuss how radon is formed, how people can test for it and, if the levels are high, how to mitigate it, which is an easy process.

Burns said nobody needs to die from radon gas.

Burns will discuss the factors that affect the amount of radon in a home — geology under the house, soil permeability, groundwater and construction of the house. Geological conditions that lead to high radon production are rocks, such as granite, phosphate rocks and dark shales, landslides and faults.

Short- and long-term tests can be used to determine the levels of radon in the home.

Burns will show how radon susceptibility maps are produced for zip codes in Oregon and the outreach effort in Oregon to get everyone to test their houses.

Burns received his bachelor and master’s degrees from Stanford University and a PhD from the University of Colorado. He has taught in Switzerland, New Zealand, Washington, Colorado and Louisiana. He is the author or co-author of two books, as well as more than 80 articles and 200 published abstracts. His broad-reaching research topics are diverse, including analyzing landslides, debris flow, radon and earthquake hazard mapping, heavy metals and trace elements in soils, loess stratigraphy, slope stability, the Missoula flood; biogeomorphology of pocket gophers, tree throw and ants; and alpine soil development.

Burns has received numerous honors including the Public Service Award from the Geological Society of America which is given annually to a member who reaches out to the public about geology and the 2006 Meritorious Service Award from the Engineering Geology Division fo the Geological Society of America.

He received the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Portland State Alumni Association in 2001 and the George Hoffmann Award from Portland State in 2007.

Burns actively helps local newspapers and television and radio stations bring important geological news to the public.

All lectures in the SWOCC Geology Lecture Series are free. Series sponsors include DB Western, Southwestern Foundation, the Mill Casino, IRIS/SSA, Ocean Discovery Lecture Series and SWOCC.

For information, or to submit questions before the lecture, contact Ron Metzger by email at rmetzger@socc.edu and 541-888-7216.

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