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IA Has Highest Radon Levels Nationwide

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- On Thursday, Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation declaring January as Radon Awareness Month.

The decision comes in the wake of news that Iowa has the highest percentage of homes in U.S. above the EPA recommended levels for radon.

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that seeps into homes through cracks in the ground level, a result of decaying uranium present in the soil. It can be found in seven out of every 10 Iowa homes. It kills nearly 400 Iowans every year by way of lung cancer.

"Being a hospice nurse, a past hospice nurse, I can say that lung cancer is one of the most devastating kinds of cancer," said Hall-Perrine Cancer Center registered nurse Celeste Barkley.

According to the EPA, radon is the leading cause of lung cancers in non-smokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall.

"It's a problem here and everybody needs to test their home," said Healthy Homes of Linn County branch coordinator Ruby Perin.

Testing your own home is easy. Test kits can be purchased through Linn County Public Health for $5. Simply follow the directions inside and mail out the kit. A certified testing laboratory will mail you back your private results.

If you do find radon in your home, contact a radon mitigation specialist and make the necessary repairs as soon as possible.

"The longer you're exposed to radon, and depending on the levels you're exposed to, your risk increases to develop lung cancer," Perin said.

If you're in the process of building a new home, make sure your contractor uses radon-resistant materials. As of 2013, that was a requirement for all new builders in Linn County. Barkley said it should be a requirement for all of Iowa.

"Anything we could do would be good," she said.

Find a list of Iowa Department of Public Health-approved mitigation specialists on the DPH website,
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