Allamakee County Corner: January is National Roden Action Month

by Laurie Moody, Allamakee County Environmental Health Sanitarian

We’re all familiar with the U.S. Surgeon General’s warning on the hazards of cigarettes. But what many don’t know is that the Surgeon General also warns against a substance that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, can be present in any home or building, is especially prevalent in Iowa and may be presenting a health risk to your family right now. That substance is radon.
Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that comes from the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. Radon can enter homes through cracks in the foundation and other pathways. Any home can have radon, regardless of age or foundation type. High-rise apartments, commercial building and schools can also have high radon levels.

Radon is measured in picoCuries/Liter (pCi/L). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that homes and buildings with radon levels of 4 pCi/L or higher be fixed to reduce the indoor radon level. The EPA estimates that seven in ten Iowa homes contain radon levels above 4 picoCuries/Liter (pCi/L). The average indoor radon concentration in Iowa is more than six times the national average. Iowa leads the nation in the percentage of homes over the 4 pCi/L as well as percentage of homes over 20 pCi/L
According to the EPA, radon is the number-one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. Nearly 400 Iowans die each year of radon-induced lung cancer, according to EPA estimates.  That is more people than are killed in traffic accidents each year in Iowa.

A simple test can detect the radon levels in any building.  All homes should be tested for radon at least once every two years. Test kits are available for $6.00 from the Allamakee Environmental Health Dept. at the Courthouse, 110 Allamakee Street, Waukon, Iowa or for a cost of $10.00 from the American Lung Association at http://bit.ly/HHRadonKit2.  The hotline   (1-800-383-5992) can also answer any questions that may arise. If a home shows levels of radon above the action level, the problem can be solved with simple mitigation techniques.  To find a certified radon mitigation specialist in your area visit http://www.idph.state.is.us/Radon/Fix.aspx.
 

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