If You Live in the Midwest – You Need to Read this Post!

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I have a confession to make. It’s 5pm and I’m still in my pajamas.

Last night’s pajamas.

I haven’t showered yet NOR left the house all day either. 8O I know! I have an explanation though, I swear. You see it all started with a gift. A Christmas gift.

Christmas

Last Christmas my sister-in-law had an extra package sitting next to the tree for Ben and me. We eagerly tore through the wrapping paper and came up with…a radon test.

A radon test? Who? Wha? HUH?

Ok so I know what radon is, from I don’t know – high school chemistry? – but how/why did it apply to Ben and me?

She explained.

Iowa has the highest concentration of Radon (a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that occurs naturally in the earth) in the United States, and exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, after smoking.

Ummm, what??

She went on to explain that the land in the Midwest, especially Iowa, is very high in uranium, which breaks down to radium, which then breaks down to form radon. As radon decays, the radioactive byproducts (vapors) rise from the ground and are inhaled – which is what causes lung cancer!

She had recently run a test in her basement, where radon levels are usually the highest, and found levels that were three times the limit deemed safe by the EPA, and she wanted us to check ours too.

The test kit sat on my kitchen counter for weeks. It takes one minute to set up, you mail it in for FREE, and results are emailed to you within days. Still, I let it sit there.

“We’re fine…” I tried to convince myself “I’m SURE of it. I don’t need to test for this silly gas!”

Really, I was just scared.

What if the levels WEREN’T safe? The basement is Ben’s man cave! He spends so much time down there! What if he’s been inhaling this deadly gas while watching sports, hanging out with his buddies and brewing beer (his favorite hobby) for the past three years we’ve lived here?!

I had to know for sure, so I finally set the dang thing up, mailed it in and hoped for the best…

I cried when the results came back. 2.5 times the safe limit. TWO POINT FIVE TIMES! MY POOR HUSBAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We immediately shut the door to the basement and did not return (except to do laundry) until we had a solution – the installation of a mitigation system.

A mitigation system is basically a pipe with a fan on the end of it that sucks the air, and thus the radon, from the sump pump in your basement and funnels it up and out through your roof, where it continues to rise into the atmosphere.

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I’m still in my PJs because it took ALL day for the system to be installed, plus I didn’t feel like dressing up for the mitigation man…

Sorry Bill.

Bill told me that nearly 70% of the homes in Iowa have non-safe limits of radon, but the problem is kept very hush-hush by the government and real estate industry…that makes me sad!

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Right now in Iowa, a radon test and/or disclosure of unsafe radon levels is not mandatory in order to sell a house, which is why Ben and I had no idea about it when we bought our place. If it wasn’t for my sister-in-law – we’d still be in the basement breathing in poisonous gas every night. I am so thankful for her gift!

If you are building a home, make sure it is piped for a mitigation system, or if you are buying one – make sure that it is tested and have the installation of a system be part of your negotiations if needed. Each house is a special case too – my home has unGodly high levels of radon, but my neighbor’s might not. Radon’s weird that way.

After much research, we learned that young children and the elderly are more susceptible to getting ill from radon, while healthy men Ben’s age are less so and he’ll most likely be just fine. I am SO glad to know that he will be breathing in clean air from now on, and he is SO glad to have his man cave back!!! He’s literally “WAHOOOOOOO”‘ing!

If you live in Iowa, the Midwest – or really anywhere in the US – and own a home, I encourage you to get a radon test kit. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time in your basement where radon mostly hangs out, at least you’ll know. Like I said, it takes one minute to put the kit together, you send it in to be tested in a pre-paid envelope and the results are emailed to you in a matter of days. Wouldn’t you feel better if you just knew, either way?

If you live in the Des Moines Metro area – call Bill for a test kit and/or for a mitigation system. He did a wonderful job, and was very polite and easy to work with. If you live elsewhere, call your local public health office for info on obtaining a test kit. I believe you can also call your local chapter of the American Lung Association to obtain one!

ARE YOU OVER THE CHEMISTRY LESSON!?

Ok, me too. :)

While Bill worked away, I got a little carried away with a fresh pineapple. It’s true… First up, Cottage Cheese + Fresh Pineapple for lunch.

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This is my #1, all-time favorite way to eat cottage cheese – it’s what I grew up eating!

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Cold, creamy cottage cheese and fresh, juicy pineapple. Match made in Heaven.

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Then I sautéed some up to make Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes for dinner!

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Inspired by my favorite place to get breakfast in the ENTIRE countrySnooze – these pancakes were off the chain.

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I started by making oatmeal pancakes, based on the insanely yummy ones I saw on Smitten Kitchen.

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This recipe calls for homemade oat flour,

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AND homemade oatmeal in the batter.

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The textured pancakes cooked up just like normal,

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(told you I sucked at flipping pancakes!)

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and were INSANE when drizzled with fresh pineapple sautéed in a little maple syrup!

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Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes

Yields 8 pancakes. Based on Smitten Kitchen’s Oatmeal Pancakes.

Print this recipe!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup old fashioned oats, processed in the food processor until fine

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond breeze

1/2 cup cooked oatmeal (1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon old fashioned oats, cooked in 3/4 cup water, then slightly cooled)

1/2 Tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

Sautéed Pineapple:

1 cup fresh pineapple

2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

Directions:

1. Mix oat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, cooked oatmeal, honey, vanilla and egg.

2. In 2 batches, stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Do not over mix.

3. Heat a flat top skillet to medium-low and, when hot, ladle on batter using a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Wait for bubbles to appear on the top of the pancake, then flip and continue to cook on the other side.

4. For sautéed pineapple: heat pineapple and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until pineapple is tender, ~5 minutes.

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The sweet pineapple flavor was intensified from being sautéed in maple syrup, and all of its yummy juices were released.

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And the pancakes had this CRAZY texture thang goin’ on! Creamy, chewy and dense. So. Awesome.

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I felt bad that I was enjoying such lusciousness while Bill was out working in the cold and rain, so I made him a peanut butter sandwich to eat.

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Then he asked me if I had any jelly.

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HAAAA! I did, in fact, have some jelly. Happy to smear some on there for ya, Bill. Totally loved that! :)

Well, it’s Friday and I feel like SUCH a lump for sitting here all day. Tomorrow will be an early start to get in a good workout, run some errands, then get ready for a super-fun, local event my parents, Ben and I are attending in the afternoon. It involves beer AND bread.

I gave my jeans the afternoon off.

Eek!

Have a great night!

~~~~~

What kind of place do you live in? Apartment, condo, house? Ever had any home disasters happen?

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Comments

  1. Lauren 03.04.2011

    OMG it’s so ironic that you just posted about this. As you know, we’ve been building our house and we just found out that the neighbor had radon in her basement. Luckily, our builder already installed that pump but we won’t be able to test ours until later because its not fully enclosed yet.

    It’s so serious and I had NO idea. So glad we found out though. And I’m so glad you guys got it taken care of.

  2. Liz 03.04.2011

    Another Iowa girl here. I didn’t have to worry about it in my previous house because there was no basement. But our current house had even higher levels than what you found. When we went back to the sellers to share the cost, they told us it was a hoax! Uh.. whatever! We installed the mitigation system anyways and when they end up with cancer, I don’t wanna hear about it! (They moved across the street and no, they don’t have a mitigation system in their house! Oh and i’m bitter cause they weren’t very nice to deal with!)

    • Pam Moffitt 03.15.2011

      Liz, even homes built on a cememnt slab can have radon. It too should have been tested!!

  3. OMG! I saw your tweet earlier today and how no idea why you’d need a mitigation system installed. Now I’m nervous to test our levels! Here in Indy, they’re always telling us how horrible our water is. Ah!
    PS: Your pineapple upside down pancakes look amazing :)

  4. Aw, love that you made Bill a pb&j! That radon stuff is super scary – glad you are fighting back!

  5. Cassie 03.04.2011

    I want your pineapple pancakes STAT!

    This post had me cracking up with you talking about Bill and his samich.. I love it.

  6. colleen 03.04.2011

    We got the test kit shortly after we bought our house (in IA) – over a 1.5 years ago. Sadly, we haven’t done it yet. Too scared to see the results probably. Really need to do it though. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. jenn 03.04.2011

    A hurricane blew through Gainesville during my days at U of Florida and a tree fell into the house I lived in! Right into my bedroom actually. Fortunately I was enjoying the hurricane party in the living room and nobody was harmed. Defense a little unsettling though… and a giant mess to clean up.

  8. jenn 03.04.2011

    Oops. DEFINITELY a little unsettling. Dang auto-correct!

  9. heather 03.04.2011

    i’m from new jersey…i think i might breathe toxic stuff in just by by being alive, lol.

  10. Emily 03.04.2011

    You are just too sweet for making Bill a sandwich! Oh Bill

  11. Susie 03.04.2011

    We live in Minnesota and had to get a the mitigation thing done too! And I think the previous owner died of cancer…hmmmm I wonder if it was because of this house? UGH…

  12. Courtney S 03.04.2011

    Ahhh those pancakes look fab! Can you share the whole recipe?

  13. oh man! i’ve never heard of that. definitely bookmarking this for the next year or so when we get a house (!). we live in an apt b/c i’m in grad school and will move after i’m done… no major problems, just minor kitchen flooding when the garbage disposal went nutty! but in my last house w/ roommates…a live electric wire fell on our driveway and another one on the street. our neighbor and her 4 kids got stuck in their minivan between the two wires. the fire dept came and carried the kids and the mom up through the ravine to hang out at our house while they tended to the wires. it was crazy!!

  14. Miranda 03.04.2011

    Wow, I had no idea about this, good to know!

    The pineapple looks amazing, drool!

  15. Karen 03.04.2011

    Oh my gosh, we had Bill G. install a radon mitigation system in our house a few years ago just west of Des Moines. And, the funny part is that I made him lunch that day, too! Hmmm . . . I see a trend here. He’s a great guy. I cracked up when I read your post and called my husband over to the computer to look at the pictures. The basement is his man cave, too. Thanks for the laugh!

  16. We have not had any house disasters, yet. Although I worry about Carbon Monoxide poisoning more than is probably healthy. Glad you got your radon problem fixed!

  17. Stefanie 03.04.2011

    We are headed to Beer & Bread tomorrow too. I can’t wait :)

  18. lesli 03.04.2011

    Scary on the radon. Yum on the cottage cheese with pineapple! Is it AE?

  19. Oh my goodness that is so scary! I’m so glad that you got the test done and are now safe n’ sound :) I live in central Virginia and there aren’t many basements in houses in our area oddly enough…. never even thought about radon before? We bought our house as a foreclosure (it was a fabulously awesome deal) so we’ve had our fair share of fun “house things” to deal with but no real disasters yet! Hope I don’t jinx that :)

  20. Emily 03.04.2011

    When I lived in DC, my apartment got infested by bed bugs.

    Worst. Thing. Ever.

    Pancakes!! :)

  21. Rachel 03.04.2011

    I worry more about black mold in our basement, since ours floods anytime there’s more than a couple inches of rain. As for other household “fun”…Our garage door has been broken for over a year (permanently in the “up” position, until we get it fixed this summer or fall)….And our dining room ceiling has some water damage. Hopefully nothing too serious, though!

  22. Lauren 03.04.2011

    When we moved to Iowa a radon test was a must have before we bought our house. Even though the levels we just slightly high, we still insisted on getting a mitigation system installed. Some called it a hoax, but I know the damage radon can do and I’m not willing to risk the health of my family and myself.

    I’m sure Bill informed you, but once the system is installed you have to recheck the radon levels in your house to assure the mitigation system is working properly.

  23. Machelle 03.04.2011

    I already knew about radon but have never tested my basement. I suppose I should. I own my own home. A 1963 ranch, up on a hill. I bought it 2 years ago from the original owners/builders, an elderly couple who moved to a nice retirement home in Mn. They were both in their 80′s so hopefully I can survive to old age in this house!

  24. Rachel 03.04.2011

    Kristin, was the test free? We saw the tests for just a few dollars, but then it was 30 or 40 to get the results! We are buying a house in Ankeny in July!!

  25. I’m at home again in St. Louis and am going to ask my parents if our house has been radon tested. Thanks for the PSA!

  26. Valerie 03.04.2011

    oh my gosh, how scary! i live in a house that i rent with my boyfriend in texas. we haven’t had any real disasters in this house, thank gosh. i’m glad you found out about that creepy vapor!

    i totally laughed out loud at the jelly comment. what’s a PB&J without the J?! side note: try st. dalfour’s jelly. it’s a natural fruit spread, with like 5 ingredients, and no junk. and it’s the best jelly i’ve ever had!

  27. holly 03.04.2011

    im an environmental toxicologist in california and i just want to stress how this is not an issue in california at all, so people on the west coast dont need to get excited. my company tests for eveything and every once in awhile we get a family that requests a radon test and they 100% are always from the midwest and we have to explain to them how its not needed here. sometimes they still want us to do it, and ive never found limits unaceptable. just a lil FYI to your other readers :)

  28. Jennifer 03.04.2011

    We bought a house in Muscatine, IA five years ago and had our house tested for radon before we bought it. Not mandatory but our realtor recommended it. Found nothing but better safe than sorry! :)

  29. Laura 03.04.2011

    IGE, you crack me up! I love that you made Bill a PB&J…I bet it made his day! :). I plan to radon test the heck outta my basement, asap…THANKS!!

  30. Nicole 03.04.2011

    That is so scary. When I first started reading I was kind of thinking what a lame Christmas present. But wow, you sister-in-law was really thinking.
    Glad there is a fix for that. I have to say that sitting around eating pineapple in my jammies all day sounds kind of nice, too bad it was under such circumstances.

  31. Mama L 03.04.2011

    I’m wondering how much the kit and the mitigation system/installation all cost you….

    • Iowa Girl Eats 03.06.2011

      The kits sell for around $10 and the mitigation system was $1390. Definitely hard to write that check – but it’s worth it for peace of mind!

  32. Thanks for the reminder! We live in a (rented) 3-year old house in upstate, NY, but I am still very concerned about radon and have been wanting to get a test kit for this house and for our future house purchase. Some types of granite are very high in radon, and our kitchen has granite counters, so I’m paranoid!

    So glad that you got the solution, which I never heard of. Thank you for that! We will know what to do if we have an issue with it, but I think it’s a smart idea even if the levels are considered normal. Cleaner air is always in fashion. :)

  33. dmcgirl 03.04.2011

    Ah Yes, we have had our share of disaster… I live in a condo and in So Cal a few years ago, EVERYBODY and their brother was in the business – READ SCAM of mold.
    the lady nextdoor had some and decided to sue me and the HOA… 20,000 later, I settled and it was a night mare. She got a complete remodel and sold at the height of the market. LOL.. Lucky lady!

    But there was nothing in my condo, I was only involved because I shared a pipe with her! NIGHT.MARE!

    I am so glad you got that handled… if you ever go to sell, it will be a good selling point!

    PJ Days are rejuvinating!

  34. Lo 03.04.2011

    My dad decided to buy a house in the city I moved to for university, as an investment, and then to rent it to me and ‘save money’. It was the worst idea ever. This house is absolutely cursed! From frozen pipes, to mice infestations, ant infestations, blocked drains, lack of heating- you name it! But the absolute worst was 2 Christmases ago, I was visiting my parents two provinces away, and came back to an ICE BLOCK of a house. My furnace had broken down, pipes in the bathroom had burst and leaked water EVERYWHERE, and since it was a good -30C for most of the 2 weeks I was gone, my entire house froze over! What a nightmare!

  35. Lindsay 03.04.2011

    I do not own any homes, but my parents own the home we live in and two other properties. Where I live and call home is almost 20 years old and we have been the only owners of the home, but we have had some major issues lately. We had some weather issues and had to have the roof replaced, we had water damage to our kitchen floors, so an entire portion of the house had to have the floors replaced and our sump pump just went out. I feel horrible that my parents have to keep spending money, but luckily most of it has been covered by insurance. Do you know how much the radon test cost and how much it cost to have the repairs done? I live in Illinois so I might have to mention this test to my parents! :)

  36. That’s so interesting. I wonder if it’s a problem anywhere in Canada – it’s so good of you to post about this.

    Not quite the same kind of home disaster, but when we went to Tokyo, our 2nd floor toilet tank cracked and caused our kitchen ceiling to fall in. Luckily it was covered by insurance but it was such a hassle!

  37. We live in an apartment. Once, in a different apartment, a crack in the ceiling turned into the ceiling half falling down in our kitchen overnight. Our landlords sucked and it took them forever to fix, because first they had to fix the leak in the roof. I was convinced that a bat/squirrel/mouse was going to find its way into our home through the gaping hole in our ceiling, but thankfully none did!

  38. Mallory 03.05.2011

    My fiance and I are in the process of buying a house in Iowa City and our Realtor actually encouraged us to get a radon test done along with our home inspection. I’ll have to remember to thank her for being so thorough and saving us the headache you had to deal with. I’m glad all is well now though!

  39. Melissa 03.05.2011

    That is so scary! I had no idea. My family lives in MI, so I’m going to give them a heads up!

    Your pineapple is making me long for summer! Love the cottage cheese and pineapple combo, and those pancakes have me drooling. I love doing pancakes for dinner! They may have to be on the menu this week!

  40. Meredith 03.05.2011

    So random that you wrote about radon… I’m taking a cancer class and this week, the professor assigned radon explanation to me. Your right about the midwest… Colorado is also known to have high amounts of radon.

  41. Micah 03.05.2011

    Good information. I’ll be doing this ASAP, especially as I get ready to buy my first home.

  42. LindsayH 03.05.2011

    we tested our house a couple of years ago and it came in just under the safe level. we also put the test like right by our sump pit and our basement is unfinished and we rarely go down there, so we decided not to have a system installed. when i was growing up, i lived in a hilly area (southwestern iowa) and i had never even heard of a sump pump! so i think we didnt hear about it as much (though i know it can still be an issue). i think any realtor who doesnt recommend that you have one in iowa before buying a house is unethical!

  43. Michelle 03.05.2011

    Every home with a basement built before 1979 has radon in it. Radon was used to keep basements insulated and warm in cold months. Getting your basement tested is a good idea. I think I’m going to get mine done.

  44. Emily 03.05.2011

    That is terrible that you had that much radon; but so glad you got it taken care of! Iowagirl sick with lung cancer? Omg I would cry my eyes out!

    I live in an apt. so it’s not my responsibility to worry about this kind of thing. Do you know if apt.’s get radon too?

    Thanks for the chemistry lesson and the mouthwatering pics!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 03.06.2011

      I’m sure apartments have the same risk of high levels as houses, but I wouldn’t think you’d need to worry about it unless you lived in a garden level apt!

  45. We had ours tested before we bought the house (we’re in IC) and were able to get the mitigation system paid for by the seller! The good news is the mitigation systems are totally effective.

  46. Nicole 03.07.2011

    Ordered my kit today!

  47. Juani 03.08.2011

    Ooh,the pancakes and pineapple combo looks absolutely divine,and is making my mouth water.

    I’m glad you guys got the problem fixed,it is really lucky your sis-in-law thought of giving you guys this as a gift.

    The first apartment I lived in, sat at the ‘bottom’ of our town (the town kind of goes downhill toward a river).And 2 years ago,after a LOT of rain during the night,I woke up with my entire little apartment flooded with 2 ft of water.It was horrible,and I obviously had to move out in a haste,as there was a lot of damage from the water.My poor cats weren’t very happy about the water either.

  48. OC_Philadelphia 03.08.2011

    Sorry, but this is just another justification for why “I hate basements.” Growing up in gulf-coast Texas and then Southern California, I could never understand why anyone would want to live UNDERGROUND. On purpose. :) Yes, I see them in cute episodes of Househunters on HGTV, but I do NOT want to be in a dark room with short ceilings and clerestory windows. Adding this whole radon gas scare just builds the con list for basements. I would much rather have a 2 or 3 story ABOVE ground house. Than a single story with a basement. Glad you got it fixed though!

  49. Gail Orcutt 03.09.2011

    Hi Kristin
    Great post. The first thing I did was print out the recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes!

    I read all of your readers’ comments. One misconception seems to be that houses with basements are the only ones in danger of high radon levels. ANY building, whether on slab, crawlspace, or basement can have an unsafe level of radon. Test kits can be found at most any hardware store.

    I met your sister-in-law when I told my radon story at an American Lung Association meeting. Last spring, the day before my 57th birthday, I was told that I had lung cancer. As I have never smoked a day in my life, this came as a huge shock to my husband and me. My left lung was totally removed and I went through four rounds of very tough chemo. I’m gradually reclaiming my life. Since I was spared with such an early detection, I have made it my mission to get the word out as much as I can. I have joined the Iowa Radon Coalition in hopes of getting some state-wide legislation to insure the safety of all Iowans.

    Radon is a real killer; not a scam. More people in Iowa died from radon-induced lung cancer last year than on Iowa highways! There are other places in the US that have nearly as high an incidence of radon as Iowa. Readers can check http://www.epg.gov/radon and click on the maps link.

    Your blog message is wonderful! I hope that your readers pass the message on to their friends and family. (I also fed Bill; a chicken sandwich, I think. He has a heart of gold.) I’m glad you didn’t let fear keep you from testing, and I’m happy that you have mitigated your home. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Maybe you’ll “pay it forward” and give also someone you love a test kit.

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