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Battling lung cancer, Iowa woman warns of the cause: Radon

Posted at 3:51 PM, Jul 29, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Radon is odorless, invisible, and radioactive. In the Midwest, chances are good that it's at an unsafe level where someone lives or works.

In 2019, as someone who's never smoked, Maria Steele was shocked to learn she has lung cancer. She says the cause is radon. It's a gas that you can't see or smell.

“I was shocked. And so started doing some research and found out that radon is the number two lung cancer risk in the country,” said Steele.

Shocked — even though she's a nurse practitioner. She says more people need to know.

“...decided to get our home tested, of course, and it came up with double the levels of radon.”

On Friday, she shared her story to Radon Defense Midwest employees at a conference.

What is radon? 

“Here in the Midwest, we've got uranium in our soil and uranium off-gases,” the president of the company said. “This gas called radon, it just comes up from the soil. And when you've got a basement, you've got a house in the earth. Radon just gets sucked in and through the house naturally.”

According to the EPA, all of Iowa and the vast majority of eastern Nebraska are in the zone with the highest potential for dangerous levels of radon in buildings. In Iowa, around seven of every 10 homes have radon levels above the point they'd recommend fixing the problem.

What can you do?

This company would recommend you call a professional and maybe install a simple system that allows ventilation, so it never builds up in the home.

You can also buy radon test kits, often found in home improvement stores. You'll need to send in the kit to be read.

As this Iowan battling cancer will tell you radon is no scam. She's not in remission, but managing with medication. To Steele, the cancer has been an opportunity.

“I've been able to share my story with other people, to have them learn about radon and the importance of radon in their lives.”