World Health Organization sets new standards on radon levels - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

World Health Organization sets new standards on radon levels


DUBUQUE (KWWL) - It's hard to believe when a non-smoker develops lung cancer. In many cases, just breathing air in the home could have been the cause.

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, claiming thousands of lives each year.

These facts are nothing new, but standards for safe radon levels in your home are. Radon is measured in picocuries, or particles, per liter of air. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards require household radon levels stay below four, but the World Health Organization has just dropped that down to 2.7.

At first glance, Bob Canon's truck looks like a ghost-mobile, but he's not fighting ghosts. He's fighting gas; radon gas.

"It occurs naturally from decaying Uranium under the ground, and those gases work their way up from the ground and the foundation of your home creates some what of an upside down bowl effect," said Canon.

Not exactly a way to describe the place you live, but Canon is a radon specialist who tells us this gas can be harmful to your health.

"The more of it you breath the more it can damage your lungs," said Canon.

In fact, he says if radon levels are high enough it is as damaging as smoking a pack of cigarettes each day.

"More and more people are testing and in Iowa, Iowa has the highest radon levels in the nation," said Canon.

But what makes a high radon level? The World Health Organization recently changed their standards. Before then any home with an average radon level of 4.0 or higher should install a radon mitigation system.

"This recent release with the World Health Organization recommends that the levels be under a 2.7." said Canon.

They're saying that if it's above that it's unhealthy to breath," said Canon.

So for under $1,000 you can install a mitigation system in your home.

While radon is colorless and odorless, you can tell if a home has a mitigation system just by looking outside. You notice a fan with a pipe leading up to the top of the house at least two feet higher than the highest window.

The mitigation system begins with a pipe, usually starting in the basement, that runs up through the house and to the outside. That's where you'll find the fan and pipe which safely disposes of the harmful gas.

"Every home has radon. It's a matter of what level it is and what is considered safe," said Canon.

And with new standards, Canon's gas-mobile will be busier than ever.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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