Free radon test kits are now available to Webster County residents.
Obtainable through Webster County Public Health, the kits can serve as a first step to determining whether one's home has dangerous levels of radon, an odorless gas that has been determined to cause lung cancer.
According to Brandi Alexander, a spokeswoman for Webster County Public Health, the kits include a filter that is hung within a home for three to five days.
The kit is then mailed to a laboratory in North Carolina for analysis, she said.
Funding for the kits was obtained through a state grant, said Alexander. Webster County partnered with Calhoun County to obtain the funding, she said.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon is estimated to cause tens of thousands of lung cancer deaths annually. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking, according to the U.S. surgeon general.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Air pressure inside your home is usually lower than pressure in the soil around your home's foundation. Because of this difference in pressure, your home acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings. Radon also may be present in well water and can be released into the air in your home when water is used for showering and other household uses. In most cases, radon entering the home through water is a small risk compared with radon entering your home from the soil. In a small number of homes, the building materials - such as granite and certain concrete products - can give off radon, although building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves. In the United States, radon gas in soils is the principal source of elevated radon levels in homes.
Lung cancer is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air. Thus far, there is no evidence that children are at greater risk of lung cancer than are adults. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are radon-related. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99 percent. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. Your costs may vary depending on the size and design of your home and which radon reduction methods are needed. Get an estimate from one or more qualified radon mitigation contractors. Hundreds of thousands of people have reduced radon levels in their homes.
-Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
"Iowa has high levels of radon," said Alexander. Webster County levels are consistent with the rest of the state, she said.
If the three-to-five-day test kit shows elevated radon levels, homeowners are advised to administer a longer test over 60 to 90 days, said Alexander.
Once data is obtained therefrom, homeowners may confer with a radon mitigation contractor to develop a reduction system suited to their particular structure, according to Alexander.
Since mid-January, about half of the 50 kits available have been claimed, Alexander said. Remaining kits are available at the Webster County Public Health office, 723 First Ave. S., on a first-come, first-serve basis.