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Radon Alert: Screen to Be Safe

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, following smoking. Screening your home to monitor its level of radon is the first step to preventing long-term exposure to this cancer-causing gas that's naturally occurring, colorless and odorless.

Screening is especially crucial for Iowans because Iowa has the highest percentage of homes that test high for radon in the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency figures.

"With elevated levels of radon and more people spending time inside during the winter in Iowa, there is very high risk of increased exposure," said R. William Field, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health and Department of Epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health. "Every home should be tested because one home could have a low reading and their next door neighbor could have a very high reading. The only way to know is to test."

Radon is:

  • A gas that has no smell or taste.
  • Released over time as the uranium found in rocks and soil breaks down.
  • Spread into the air and is found at low levels in outside air and ground water. Radon is also released from building materials or from water taken from a well with high levels of radon.

Why should you be concerned about radon?

  • Radon is most dangerous when it is trapped in an area with low ventilation, such as a home.
  • Radon travels into a home through cracks in the foundation, floors and walls.
  • Radon can be found in other floors of a home, not just a basement.
  • Houses that are well insulated, tightly sealed, or built on soil that has high levels of uranium are more likely to have high levels of radon.
  • People who breathe in high amounts of radon are at risk of lung cancer.

Find out what level of radon is in your home:

  • Test your home using a short-term and a long-term test. Radon amounts can change month to month, so make sure to do both types of tests.
  • Do not rely on your neighbors’ results. Results can vary from house to house.
  • Short term radon test kits are available for Iowa residents by mail for $6, or by pick-up for $4. For more information contact the Iowa Air Coalition at 800-206-7818.