Mindy Uhle, executive officer of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says radon causes no immediate health symptoms, but long-term exposure may cause lung cancer.
“What we’re hoping is that people will get their homes tested,” Uhle says. “It’s Radon Action Month nationally and it’s a good time to test your home and know what your indoor radon level is going to be.”
While radon levels are varied, every one of Iowa’s 99 counties is considered at high risk for elevated levels.
“Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil rock and water and gets into the air we breathe,” Uhle says. “Iowa’s a higher risk because of the soils and some of the geology we do have here in the state.”
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers. Easy-to-use test kits can reveal the amount of radon in any building.
“Short-term radon test kits are often $15 or less,” Uhle says. “We contract with the American Lung Association. They run our Radon Action Hotline. People can call 800-383-5992 and purchase a low-cost test kit from that agency.”
Buildings with high radon levels can usually be fixed, she says, with simple and affordable venting techniques. While five out of seven homes in Iowa have elevated radon levels, an EPA study finds the national number is only one in 15 homes.
To learn more, visit http://idph.iowa.gov/radon.