July 12, 2024

Supporting cancer research, education



That's the best word to describe this year's Relay for Life of Jasper County. Everyone involved deserves a pat on the back. On Relay night, it was announced that an outstanding total of $60,500 had been raised. In the days since the event, the total has increased to $66,000 and should go a bit higher as online donations continue at www.relayforlife.org/jaspercountyia.com.

We saw new faces and old friends at this year’s Relay. The stars of the night were Jasper County’s cancer survivors, easily identifiable in their purple survivor T-shirts. Fundraising teams participated from nearly every community in our county. The Relay is a fun way to support a great cause. By attending or helping with this event, you are a part of an organized movement to put a cure for cancer and effective care at the top of our agenda.

As a legislator, I always will keep the battle against cancer high on my list of priorities. At the request of the American Cancer Society, Livestrong and several other cancer fighting organizations, I’ve joined three fellow legislators to form a bipartisan Legislative Cancer Caucus. Our primary goal is to ensure that our fellow legislators keep the fight against cancer a priority.

We are seeing significant evidence of success in cancer survivorship rates. Only a few decades ago, the outlook for people facing cancer was not nearly as favorable as it is today. During the 1970s, about 1 of 2 people diagnosed with cancer survived at least five years. Now, more than 2 out of 3 survive that long. The American Cancer Society has set a goal to reach 4 of 5 survivorship by the year 2015.

How do we reach the 4 in 5 survivorship goal? Quality care, research and education work hand-in-hand. Great efforts have been put forward to encourage healthy living habits. I applaud and support smoking cessation efforts and public education on avoidance of skin cancer. Encouraging healthy lifestyle habits is critical. The cancer community is effective in these efforts.

We must enhance efforts to educate the public on radon and support radon mitigation efforts. Although you can make the healthy choices not to smoke and to use sunblock, it is difficult to avoid radon, especially in Iowa. Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking. It is estimated that 400 Iowans die every year due to radon related cancer. Last year, more people died from radon exposure in the U.S. than from drunk driving, fires or carbon monoxide poisoning, according to EPA data.

Radon is a radioactive gas found in nature. It has no color, odor or taste and is chemically inert. Its source is natural uranium in the earth. As the uranium molecule slowly decays, it forms lead and radon gas as by-products. Being a gas, radon moves upward out of the soil and into the atmosphere. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over time.

Iowa has the highest average radon concentrations in the United States. Seven out of 10 homes tested in Iowa have radon levels that exceed federal guidelines for exposure, which is 4 picocuries per liter. The EPA recommends that homes testing above this level should have mitigation measures installed to reduce the exposure below that threshold. The average indoor radon level in Jasper County is 7.8 pCi/L. This is slightly below the statewide average at 8.5 pCi/l, but clearly exceeds federal exposure guidelines. For a county-by-county statistical breakdown, go http://ia-radon.info/.

It’s time for action. Testing your home for radon is the best way to know if you have a problem. A professional inspection will run about $300 and a do-it-yourself kit will cost about $20. Kits are often available at hardware stores.

If your home tests high, installation of a radon-mitigation system will ensure lower in-home radon levels if the system is installed correctly and it is operating properly. These systems are affordable and generally use a small fan requiring only 50 watts of energy.

We now know more than ever about how to detect, prevent and mitigate radon. Last session, I introduced HF 2272, a bill requiring the state building code commissioner to adopt statewide requirements and standards for radon control in residential construction. I plan to reintroduce this bill, and I’m building bipartisan support. I am also working on two additional radon-mitigation bills. The first is focused on radon mitigation efforts in school buildings and places of employment. The second bill will help families install radon mitigation systems.

It’s time to get the legislation up to date with the latest research. The last major radon laws were passed 20 years ago. More and more individuals and groups, such as the American Cancer Society, are gathering momentum around this issue. The more people learn, the more insistent they become about radon legislation that will help Iowa be a healthier state. We want people who already live here and who may consider moving here to know that health is a priority.

Feel free to contact me any time at (641) 521-9260 or email dan.kelley@legis.state.ia.us. Visit my website at www.electkelley.com or friend me on Facebook. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.