Study identifies radon problem in Eastern Iowa

A radon test kit. Photo by christopherhuffman, Flickr.

According to a new study, nearly one third of homes tested in Eastern Iowa have high enough radon levels to warrant mitigation.

Linn County Public Health analyzed the results of more than 400,000 radon testing kits used in homes throughout Eastern Iowa from 1990 to 2011. Nearly every county reported averages above the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” of 4 picocuries per litre of air.

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is responsible for more than 20,000 deaths per year nationwide, according to the EPA. Iowa leads the nation in radon concentration levels.

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Clay County offers free radon kits for National Radon Action Month

This map from the EPA shows radon levels around Iowa. Red indicates areas with the highest average indoor screening levels of radon.

January is National Radon Action Month, which is especially important to Iowa: the state with the highest concentration of radon in the nation.

To help increase awareness of radon and promote radon testing, Clay County is offering free short-term radon kits to the first 50 people who stop by the Clay County Environmental Health Office.

An estimated 70 percent of Iowa homes contain dangerous levels of radon. According to the EPA, radon accounts for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.

For more information on radon and its risks, listen to our radio clip here.

Read The Daily Reporter’s full article on Clay County’s efforts here.

Updated information on radon in energy efficient homes

In response to this morning’s radio segment from the Iowa Environmental Focus, we received an email informing us that the issues with radon concentrations in energy efficient homes are more complicated than we initially realized. Dr. William Field of the University of Iowa shared with us a report he prepared for the EPA last year, which helps clarify this topic. Continue reading

Energy-efficient homes come with radon risk

Photo by Birdies100, Flickr

Houses around the country are increasingly built with energy-efficiency in mind, but many people don’t realize that these measures can lead to higher in-home radon levels. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for the death of 21,000 Americans every year. New homes are typically built with tight seals in order to make them energy efficient. These tight seals don’t prevent the radon from entering, but do prevent it from escaping. KCRG-TV reports that this is a pertinent issue for Iowans as Iowa has the highest radon concentration in the U.S.:

Increasing numbers of Iowans are testing their homes for radon — an encouraging sign, advocates say. Yet radon levels have increased across much of Iowa as people place a greater value on tightly sealed, energy-efficient homes at the expense of indoor air quality. Radon still enters those homes through the ground, but it doesn’t escape.

“There are more homes now in need of radon mitigation than there were in the past,” said Bill Field, a University of Iowa researcher and author of several key studies linking radon and lung cancer. Continue reading