Radon gas presents health risks

During National Radon Action Month, a local official is reminding Hamilton County residents that the gas is a leading cause of lung cancer.

Hamilton County Public Health Director Shelby Kroona said radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 cases of lung cancer each year.

People are exposed to radon gas as it seeps out of the ground around us. When outside, the odorless gas is not concentrated enough to cause harm. However, in some homes, radon gas can gather and present a health risk for the home’s inhabitants. Kroona said a 2010 study in Hamilton County showed that over half of 37 homes tested had dangerous levels of radon.

“We just want people to be aware that it is dangerous, but it’s something you can fix,” Kroona said.

Radon gas levels are usually higher in the lower levels of a home. Kits to test radon levels in a home are available at hardware stores and cost about $40. The tests allow buyers to take a sample of the air in the home over several days and send that test to a laboratory for analysis.

If a home has unsafe levels of radon, Kroona said the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website, idph.state.ia.us, has a list of contractors to mitigate household radon. Kroona said radon levels are higher during the winter as windows are shut tight.

While Kroona said it’s a good idea for everyone to test for radon, she said it’s very important if a home has a bedroom or regular living space below ground.

Kroona said levels of radon gas are higher in areas like Hamilton County because the element was left among glacial deposits.