Research scientist Dan Tranter says the colorless, odorless, radioactive gas occurs naturally, rising up from the soil — and it can be deadly.
“If you breathe radon for a long period of time, it damages your lungs, which can lead to lung cancer,” Tranter says. “It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.” Overall, radon is the third-leading cause of cancer in Nebraska, behind smoking and second-hand smoke.
Radon test kits cost between $10 and $15 and they’re available at hardware and home improvement stores as well as at many city and county health departments.
The best time to test for radon is now, during the winter heating season. He says buying a kit is a smart idea.
“You’ll know if you have an issue and maybe you need to do a second test,” he says. “And ultimately if you need to fix the problem, there are qualified professionals that can install radon reduction systems in our homes.”
While radon is prevalent in Nebraska, very few people have their homes scanned for the dangerous gas.
“The ideal goal is 100% of homes tested every five years,” Tranter says, “but our most recent time-frame showed only 1% had tested.”
While radon levels are varied, the EPA says 72 of Nebraska’s 93 counties are considered at high risk for elevated levels.
Several counties in southeast Nebraska have radon levels that are considered higher than safe, with some of the highest levels in Johnson and Nemaha counties.