DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa, the state that has the highest risk for elevated levels of radon, now recognizes January as “Radon Action Month.”
Radon is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas that can cause lung cancer after long-term exposure, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
In mid-January 2019, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds declared January as “Radon Action Month.” It’s meant as a way to remind Iowans to test their homes for the gas.
The Environmental Protection Agency has set an action level of 4 picoCuries per liter of air, or 4 pCi/L. That means, property owners who find levels that meet or exceed that number are urged to hire a radon mitigation contractor to fix their radon problems.
According to the EPA, the State of Iowa has “a very high potential for elevated levels of radon gas,” reported the IDPH. A survey found that Iowa has the largest percentage of homes above the acceptable radon level.
Radon comes from nature, and tends to be higher in Iowa because the soil has elevated levels of radium. According to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, this dates back to the state’s glacial history. Radon seeps into homes the same way air does: from soil around the home, through cracks in the foundation, floor or walls, through openings around floor drains, pipes and sump pumps or through hollow-block walls. It can be found in old and new homes alike, and having a basement, or not, makes no difference.
All of Iowa is listed as being in “Zone 1” which are counties predicted to have radon levels of more than 4 pCi/L. Illinois has a mix of “Zone 1” and “Zone 2” areas. “Zone 2” is counties that are predicted to have radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.
The university reported that about 400 Iowans die from radon exposure each year.