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High radon levels in Iowa homes 'surprise' University of Iowa researchers

IOWA CITY, Iowa — You can't see it, you can't smell it, but it causes cancer. It's radon, and a recent study by the University of Iowa suggests it can be found at higher than recommended levels in many Iowa homes.

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas caused by the uranium in the Earth's crust. It can be found in concentrated levels, often in the lower levels of homes. According to state officials, it's the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation.

The UI study was conducted in 2013 and published last month. Researchers tested more than 350 homes in the small northwest Iowa town of Akron.

Learn more here.

Senate panel OKs plan for more radon prevention in new homes

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Builders in Iowa would be required to install radon mitigation systems in new homes under legislation that has won approval in an Iowa Senate committee.

The bill moved out of the State Government Committee on Wednesday. Under the proposal, new homes must be built with radon mitigation pipes. If the homeowner discovers radon, they can add a fan to use the system.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that can leak through cracks in building foundations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls radon the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. The agency also says Iowa's 99 counties are in the agency's highest risk zone for exposure.

A similar bill was approved by the Democratic-majority Senate two years ago but failed to advance in the Republican-controlled House.

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On the Ground in Warren County, IA

We are wrapping up Warren County's three-month long Radon Grant by distributing 180 short term radon kits to the general public to Warren County residents. We then received the results from most of those radon kits and sent follow-up letters to those with high results over 4 picocuries per liter. Some called and discussed the next step in the process and then directed to procedures of the Iowa Department of Public Health and a list of certified radon mitigators.

Networking for Radon Awareness in Winnebago County

Winnebago County, Iowa does a lot to make the public aware of the hidden dangers of radon. Each year we print articles in the local newspapers and distribute public service announcements to the local radio station. Last year we partnered with a local farmers coop to give out 300 free radon test kits. This year we obtained a radon grant to give out 180 free radon test kits. We gave them to county schools and their staff. We also tested Waldorf College dorms, Day care centers, Public Health staff, and Mosaic. We also partnered with the local YMCA and the 3M manufacturing company to make employees aware of the risks posed by radon. 3M is also giving employees free radon kits.

I have held informational meetings with the public, Public Health staff, YMCA, 3M employees and people who have high radon levels in their homes.

Iowa legislation requiring radon testing in schools advances

Public school districts would be required to test buildings for radon and mitigate any high levels under pending House legislation.

The bill approved Thursday by a House Education subcommittee would require schools test their facilities for radon by 2025 and once every 10 years after or following any construction, renovations or repairs.

If levels of the cancer-causing gas are found at or above 4 picocuries per liter, schools would have to conduct a second round of testing with a person certified to test and determine mitigation efforts to bring levels below EPA recommended levels. The legislation allows plant and physical equipment levy funds to be used for radon testing and mitigation.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas found in soil, and Iowa is known to have high levels of the gas. Gail Orcutt, 60, a retired teacher from Pleasant Hill and radon-induced lung cancer survivor, said the bill addresses a serious problem that has a simple solution.

Iowa Senate Says Schools Should Test for Radon

Schools would be required to test for radon, a colorless, odorless gas that can leak through cracks in building foundations, under legislation that passed the Iowa Senate on Wednesday.

The measure won bipartisan support, passing through Senate 37-13. It now moves to the House.

The bill would require public and private schools to test for the gas and install a system to expel it from buildings. It also would require residential construction companies to install pipes to extract the gas from homes built after Jan. 1, 2015.

Bill sponsor Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said it would be negligent for lawmakers to do nothing to protect Iowa residents from radon.

Hubbell to Put Radon Mitigation System in Homes

Hubbell’s new homes will come standard with a passive radon mitigation system to help protect families threatened by the deadly gas.

The West Des Moines developer’s move could push other homebuilders to provide the system that’s used to rid homes of the naturally occurring radioactive gas, said Rick Welke, a radon program manager at the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Radon — a colorless, odorless gas that’s produced from the breakdown of uranium in the earth — is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, Welke said. Radon is prevalent in the state, “where over half of Iowa homes test above the EPA action level,” he said.

Building the mitigation system into Hubbell homes will help reduce costs for families that find radon is occurring above federally accepted standards, Welke said. Fans are added to existing mitigation systems to actively eliminate radon from a home.

Iowa Lacks Guidelines to Track Radon in Schools

Iowa Lacks Guidelines to Track Radon in Schools

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Look both ways before you cross the street. Tell a teacher if someone bullies you. Sit quietly while you ride the bus. There’s a long list of warnings out there to help kids protect themselves from potential school dangers.

One that is far less common is, “Be careful, you might be inhaling radon.” After all, how do you protect people from something that has no smell, color or taste?

“It’s a gas that’s going to take the route of least resistance,” said Dr. Chuck Lynch, a professor in the department of epidemiology in the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health.

The Environmental Protection Agency has classified all 99 of Iowa’s counties in Zone 1, meaning they have the highest potential for indoor radon concentrations above 4 picocuries per liter, even though the agency maintains that “there is no known safe level of exposure to radon.”

Danger Beneath the Surface

Danger Beneath the Surface

It started when a neighbor’s husband, who had never smoked, died of lung cancer, said Sue Haven.

“His doctor told her she should test her house for radon, and she did – and it was above acceptable levels,” she said.

Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It causes no immediate symptoms but is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and kills more than 21,000 each year in the United States, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

To put that into perspective, radon caused more deaths in 2011 than drunk driving, fires and carbon monoxide.

New Iowa Cancer Plan to be Unveiled Next Week

New Iowa Cancer Plan to be Unveiled Next Week

IOWA CITY – Iowa will soon unveil a new plan to provide direction for the state’s cancer initiatives, but one thing hasn’t changed.

“There are still a lot of Iowans dying from tobacco exposure,” said Dr. George Weiner, president of the Iowa Cancer Consortium and director of the University of Iowa’s Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We still have a long way to go.”

Every year, one-third of the more than 6,000 cancer deaths in Iowa are caused by tobacco, Weiner said.

Making progress against tobacco exposure and other causes of cancer is among the goals of the 2012-2017 Iowa Cancer Plan, which will be released next week during the Iowa Cancer Summit.

The plan, an update of the 2006-2011 document, provides direction for people involved in cancer control programs, research and policy, as well as a resource for Iowans needing support and advocacy.

Screening, early detection, research and treatment are among the topics addressed in the plan.