Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. That is one reason the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared that next week is “National Radon Awareness Week.” The EPA estimates that radon claimed the lives of 20,000 Americans in 2009 via lung cancer. Of these, about 2,900 were people who had never smoked.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is both colorless and odorless. It is produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. When radon decays into radioactive solids, it can attach to dust particles that find their way into unsuspecting lungs.
The EPA rates counties’ radon levels as high, moderate and low. Every county in Iowa is listed as high. Rick Welke, radon program manager at the Iowa Department of Public Health, explained that Iowa has the highest percentage of homes at risk of radon contamination in the country. He said the reason for that is found in Iowa’s geology.