Bill to Protect Iowa Children, Teachers from Radon-Induced Lung Cancer Moves to Full House

February 14, 2022

Des Moines, Iowa — The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the nation’s leading cancer advocacy organization, commends the House Education Committee for advancing legislation (HF 2264) that would require radon testing and mitigation in Iowa schools. The Gail Orcutt, School Radon Safety Bill (named after a beloved retired teacher who died of radon-induced lung cancer) now goes to the full House for a vote.

Exposure to high radon concentration has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer in Iowa. Due to its glacial history, Iowa has the highest average indoor radon concentration in the U.S., more than six times the national average. Radon is a radioactive gas that can enter buildings through small cracks or openings in the foundation. According to the Energy Association of Iowa Schools, 36% of Iowa school buildings have initially tested at or above the Environmental Protection Agency’s radon action level.

“Approximately 400 Iowans will die from radon exposure this year alone,” said Shana Crews, government relations director for ACS CAN in Iowa. “As lung cancer causes the most deaths of any cancer and nonsmoking lung cancer is the eighth leading cause of cancer, this is an important step Iowa could take towards reducing the cancer burden,” said Crews.

The bill would require school districts to test for radon and develop a mitigation plan that may include further diagnostic testing, corrective measures and active mitigation. It bears the name of a passionate ACS CAN volunteer who advocated for radon testing and mitigation to prevent lung cancer. Gail Orcutt dedicated 33 years of her life to education. She never smoked or worked in a smoking environment. Yet in 2010, she was diagnosed with, and later succumbed to, lung cancer.

“Gail devoted the last 10 years of her life educating legislators about the harmful effects of radon -- among other issues -- to pave the way for policies that help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. By naming this bill after her, we hope to honor her life and legacy in the education and cancer communities,” said Crews.

To order a radon testing kit or request more information about radon, call the Iowa Radon Hotline at 800-383-5992.

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