It silently seeps into buildings, colorless and odorless – a radioactive gas caused by the decay of uranium rocks in the soil. It enters through cracks in floors, walls or foundations and it can be found in building materials or tainted well water.
January is Radon Awareness Month, and Iowans should be among the most aware. They face the highest risk of exposure, according to the EPA.
Many dub the gas “the invisible killer.” It claims the lives of some 21,000 people each year across the country, including about 400 in Iowa.
Radon particles damage the cells that line the lungs of those who breath it in, and as a result, they are second only to smoking as a leading cause of lung cancer.
All 99 of Iowa’s counties are colored bright red on EPA’s map of radon zones – the color that signifies where radon levels are highest (areas where average indoor levels of radon gas is at 4 least picocuries per liter).
In the U.S., the average radon level in homes is 1.3 pCi/L. Iowa’s rate is more than six times that, according to Rick Welke, Iowa Radon Program Manager at the Iowa Department of Public Health. Over 70 percent of Iowa homes have elevated levels.
Few Iowans invest in the $10 tests, found in local health departments and most retail stores, that can measure radon levels.
Perhaps they should.
For more radon information, see the links below:
- Iowa Department of Public Health – Radon Program
- Radon and Cancer: Questions and Answers
- EPA State Radon information – Iowa
- Iowa Radon Lung Cancer Study