DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa leads the nation in the presence of radon, the colorless and odorless gas that rises up from the soil.
Right now, school districts are not required to test for it, but they may soon be forced to get rid of it if legislation passes at the Iowa Legislature this session.
We first introduced you to Stephanie Langstraat almost a decade ago when she was the principal at Prairie City-Monroe Middle School.
“Hard to believe but 10 years ago this summer I was diagnosed at the time with stage four lung cancer,” Langstraat said, “and I was a nonsmoker, 33-years-old, healthy, athletic, no idea how I would’ve been diagnosed with that.”
Doctors told her the cancer came from radon exposure. Langstraat survived, thrived, and moved into a new role as a vice-principal at Berg Middle School in Newton. She kept fighting to prevent others from getting sick.
“I just had it in my mind that I’m going to get behind something with radon and see what difference I could make for other people so they don’t experience this kind of stuff,” Langstraat said.
Langstraat was introduced to Gail Orcutt, another educator who never should have gotten lung cancer but did. Now, a bill in the Iowa Legislature bears her name.
“We lost a great person in Gail,” Rep. Brian Lohse, of Bondurant, said. “And if we can save a life of a teacher, of an administrator, of anyone that’s listening to this, it’s well worth just filing the bill.”
Rep. Lohse introduced the ‘Gail Orcutt, School Radon Safety Bill‘ to require public schools to be tested for radon at least once every five years. If levels are high enough, the school must develop a mitigation plan.
Langstraat is thankful Berg Middle School where she works goes a step further, testing every three years.
“In schools this size, I don’t know what really is the best thing to do,” Langstraat said, “but if you’re testing it one year, every year, three years, five years, that’s better than not testing it at all.”
Radon can be a problem not only in schools but in your home as well. To order a radon testing kit or request more information about radon, call the Iowa Radon Hotline at 800-383-5992.