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Living with a Killer: Iowa Homes at High Risk for Radon

IMAGE: Homeowners across Iowa are being urged to take action this month by testing for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Graphic credit: Pumbaa80/Wikimedia Commons.
IMAGE: Homeowners across Iowa are being urged to take action this month by testing for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Graphic credit: Pumbaa80/Wikimedia Commons.
January 19, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa – It really is often a matter of out of sight, out of mind, but radon is a deadly danger in homes across the state, and the message on the importance of testing is clear.

Mindy Uhle, executive officer of the radon program with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says the radioactive gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, but most people are unaware of the naturally occurring threat.

"Iowa is designated as a Zone 1 state by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and that means simply that we have a really high potential for elevated levels of radon gas,” Uhle explains. “So, we do consider all Iowa homes to be at risk for radon levels."

Radon test kits can be purchased at most hardware stores and are also available through many of Iowa's county environmental or public health offices.

January is National Radon Action Month.

If a home is found to have high levels, Uhle says the fix can be relatively simple with a radon mitigation system.

"What that is is typically a vent pipe and a fan that draws air from underneath the building and it will vent it to the outside of the home," she says.

Radon is an invisible gas that comes up from the ground from the decay of uranium.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA