Iowans are being urged to test their homes for a gas that contributes to nearly 400 lung cancer deaths each year in the state. Rick Welke, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says Iowa has the number one radon problem in the U.S.
"Radon comes from the decay of Uranium 238," Welke says, "and we just happen to be one of the lucky states that – during the glacial periods – a lot of Uranium 238 was left in the upper crust of the soil. Uranium 238 decays into Radium and that decays into the gas Radon."
An estimated 70 percent of Iowa homes have elevated levels of radon. Because it’s an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas, a testing kit is the only way to find out if a building contains significant concentrations of radon. If a home has a radon problem, the solution is rather simple.
"What we do to try and remediate that is to basically put a straw in the home, and basically it sucks on the soil, goes through the floor of the basement, and it basically sucks on the floor and reverses that pressure relationship," Welke explains. "It gives radon another place to go instead of going into the indoors." Welke says getting rid of high radon levels can cost a homeowner roughly $1,200 to $1,600.
The Iowa AIR Coalition is selling cheap radon test kits. Welke says the radon screening kits are available for $6 by calling 1-800-206-7818. Additional information about radon can be found on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website. January is "National Radon Action Month."