In Iowa, the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers is radon: a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas which is found naturally in soils with uranium deposits.
This past October, Dr. Cindie Wolff and her nurse, Heather Morehead, attended an Iowa Cancer Consortium meeting.
“To be honest, I wasn’t aware of the dangers of radon and the problems we have with radon,” Wolff told Akron councilors at their Jan. 8 meeting. “But, I came away from the meeting knowing we had to do something in our community.”
Akron Mercy Medical Clinic has partnered with the Iowa Cancer Consortium, University of Iowa, and Iowa Department of Public Health to educate the public
on radon, get people to test their homes
and businesses, complete mitigation
if they have high levels and then
pass the word onto others.
Between 400 and 500 deaths each year in Iowa are related to radon, said Wolff.
If a person smokes and they are exposed to a high level of radon, they are 15 times more likely to develop lung cancer, said Wolff. “And the younger someone is exposed to radon and the longer they are exposed to it, makes it more likely they will get cancer.”
“Everyone thinks of Megan Dirks (the local non-smoking college student who died of lung cancer),” she said, explaining there is no way to prove radon caused Megan’s lung cancer “but with radon being the No. 1 cause in nonsmokers we believe it was radon.”
“Iowa is especially high in radon levels,” said Dr. Cindie Wolff, of Akron Mercy Medical Clinic, explaining the radioactive material was deposited in this area by the glaciers which formed the Loess Hills, “but radon is found every where.”
According to the Iowa Radon Coalition, seven of 10 houses have very dangerous levels of radon.
It doesn’t matter whether a house has a basement or not. Some with high radon levels have had
sump pumps, cracks in the basement
walls, drain tiles and been well
insulated but others have not
had any of those things,
said Wolff. “Radon leaches
into our houses, and we
need a way to get it out.”