Des Moines, Iowa — Today, Governor Kim Reynolds signed The Gail Orcutt School Radon Safety Bill (named after a beloved retired teacher who died of radon-induced lung cancer), which requires radon testing and mitigation in Iowa schools.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the nation’s leading cancer advocacy organization, supports the bill and considers it a critical step toward reducing the cancer burden in Iowa. Radon is a radioactive gas that can enter buildings through small cracks or openings in the foundation.
“Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that could be damaging the lungs of our students and school staff. We don’t want them to find out they’ve been exposed to dangerous radon levels through a lung cancer diagnosis,” said Maria Steele, a health care practitioner and ACS CAN volunteer. Steele was diagnosed with radon-induced lung cancer in 2019 and draws motivation from her cancer journey to advocate for policies that help prevent, diagnose, treat and survive the disease.
Exposure to high radon concentration is the leading cause of lung cancer among people who don’t smoke and the second leading cause of lung cancer among people who smoke. Since Iowa has the highest average indoor radon concentration in the U.S. — more than six times the national average — Iowans are at greater risk of radon-induced lung cancer than most Americans. An estimated 400 Iowans die each year from radon exposure.
“Radon testing and mitigation is cancer prevention,” said Shana Crews, government relations director for ACS CAN in Iowa. “We are pleased that the legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds have taken this important step to protect children, teachers and school staff from this insidious gas,” said Crews.
The bill requires 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. In 2010, she was diagnosed with, and later succumbed to, radon-induced lung cancer.
To order a radon testing kit or request more information about radon, call the Iowa Radon Hotline at 800-383-5992.