It is invisible. It has no smell. And it is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America. What naturally-occurring radioactive gas can wreak such havoc? Radon.
“You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you don’t even know when you have it unless you test for it,” rural Jasper County resident Kathy Richardson said.
Richardson has personal experience with radon and wants to help spread awareness about the risks associated with the gas. Because of its elusive nature, a specific test must be administered to find out if it is in a home, business or any structure. Its difficult detection also causes people to become complacent because it does not openly pose a serious threat.
“If there was a factory in this town that was emitting all that radon and you could see it and smell it and everybody was affected that way, everybody would be raising all kinds of heck,” Richardson said.
To be sure her home was safe, Richardson conducted her own radon test. When the report came back, she found the levels were far above what is considered safe.
“The guy who fixed ours has never ever seen one test so high, never. We were shocked,” Richardson said.
Even though Richardson was unaware of the radon levels in her home, she said there were things going on personally she now attributes to possibly being from the radon levels, things she didn’t normally experience.
After realizing that the radon levels in her home were above safe levels, Richardson went through radon mitigation to make it safe again. Essentially, Richardson said they had to install a ventilation system in their basement.
“They run a pipe up alongside the basement wall and then they vent it outside,” Richardson said.
Radon that is present outside doesn’t pose a threat to people according to Richardson because the radon dissipates once outside. But the threat from radon exposure is something Berg Middle School Assistant Principal Stephanie Langstraat knows all too well.
“Back in 2012 I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer,” Langstraat said.
Her diagnosis, she attributes to radon exposure. Langstraat fought through the battle that even took her right lung and beat her cancer.
“When you are nonsmoker and your exposure to secondhand smoke is little to none really the only culprit left is radon,” Langstraat said.
Through Langstraat’s battle she came out the other side becoming an advocate for radon awareness and making sure people understand the possible outcomes involving radon exposure and how to mitigate it.
“Listen, I am kind of glad I went through it. I wouldn’t want to go through it again but if it helps me to help someone else and maybe even save a life or even to provide that knowledge then thank you, thanks for making me go through that and making me aware so that I can hopefully prevent someone else from having to go through it,” Langstraat said.
Both Richardson and Langstraat stressed the importance of testing home radon levels. Tests are available at many retail businesses including Walmart for as little as $10. If the next step is to do radon mitigation, Van Ryswyk Plumbing and Heating in Monroe offers the service.
“Just test it,” Langstraat said. “It’s cheap, it’s easy, just do it,”
Contact Dustin Teays at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org