What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium found in soils and rocks that surround the foundations of our homes and other buildings. You can’t see, smell, or taste radon. In outdoor environments, radon levels are very low and generally not considered harmful. When radon gas finds its way into homes or buildings through small cracks or holes it builds up to higher levels. Over time, breathing in high levels of radon can cause lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, second only to tobacco, and the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa has the highest average indoor radon concentration in the nation. This is due to the glacial deposits in our area of the United States. The entire state of Iowa is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Zone 1 (red zone). This means that at least 50% of homes in Iowa are above the EPA's recommended action level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), a measure of how many radioactive particles come out of a certain amount of air in a minute. The EPA recommends homes be mitigated if the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
Radon Exposure is Preventable
Radon exposure is completely preventable, so it’s important you are aware of radon levels in your home. Having your home tested is the only effective way to determine if, and how much, radon is present. Typically, the highest concentration of radon is found in the first floor or basement of a building. Most radon testing is performed by homeowners in their own homes. Anyone can test their own home or building for radon using commercially available test kits. Short-term test kits are a good tool to give you an idea of what your exposure to radon may be.
Get a Free Test
Linn County Public Health has short-term radon test kits available to purchase for $7-8 all year round, but now through February 14, 2022 Linn County residents can pick up one free test kit per home at the front desk at 1020 6th St. SE in Cedar Rapids. Long-term tests, which monitor for at least three months, are also available for $25. Long-term test kits provide you a better idea of what your long-term exposure to radon is. Since the relationship with radon and lung cancer is linear, the long term testing (usually 3 to 12 months) can provide you with a more realistic picture of your exposure.
Professionals who can also measure radon, or who install radon mitigation systems, in Iowa are required by law to be trained and licensed by the State. Radon mitigation specialists design and install systems to lower radon levels in your home or building. To find a Credentialed Radon Mitigation Specialist in your area, please visit https://idph.iowa.gov/radon/fix.
Some health care services and products are eligible for reimbursement from your Health Care Flexible Spending Account when your doctor or other licensed health care provider certifies they are medically necessary. If a physician requires radon mitigation in your home due to a medical condition caused or aggravated by an unacceptable level of radon, some expenses may be eligible. Check with your provider for details.
Learn more about radon and find additional information about home testing on the Linn County Healthy Homes website.