A federal EPA report says Iowa’s soil has the nation’s worst concentration of radon, with about seven in every ten Iowa homes containing enough of the gas that action is needed.

Liz Orton, outreach coordinator for the Iowa Cancer Consortium, says radon is invisible, tasteless and odorless — and it’s also radioactive. “Radon occurs naturally in the soil. It’s given off by radium and uranium,” Orton says. “Iowa has a large concentration of this and the reason that it’s harmful is because radon gas can get into your lungs and it can actually cause lung cancer.”

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Iowa, behind only tobacco use. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services says radon results in about 400 deaths in the state every year. Orton recommends every Iowa homeowner invest in a radon test kit as radon levels in Iowa are almost seven times higher than the national average.

“Radon test kits are very easy to use. They’re available at local hardware stores and they’re usually $20 or less,” Orton says. “You just follow the directions. You set it in your basement and then when it’s done, you mail it into a lab that has free shipping and then you’ll get the results back.” If those results come back showing a dangerous level of radon in your home, it’s recommended you take action right away.

“You do need to hire a professional radon mitigator to come mitigate your home and a list of those can be found on the Iowa HHS website,” Orton says. “The typical cost in Iowa for mitigation is about $1,200. It is a substantial cost but definitely lower than the cost of getting lung cancer and being treated for that.”

Although radon is most-often found in basements, it can be present on any story of a home or building. January is Radon Action Month in Iowa.

Radio Iowa