It's a colorless, odorless gas, but radon could be seeping into your home at toxic levels. It is a byproduct of uranium, a naturally radioactive element, breaking down in the soil.
Nebraska has the third-highest statewide radon levels in the country and in Omaha alone, 20 percent of homes have tested for toxic radon levels. It is has become a larger issue now because of the city's booming real estate market.
"We have a low inventory going into this year, so any time you have a high demand and a low inventory, it creates kind of that frenzy," real estate agent Andrea Lane said. "Terms kind of get changed when it comes to a multiple-offer situation, so one of the things that usually happens is where they want to be within a certain price range of the highest offer, and/or they'll start taking away things, like a home warranty, or they'll take away things like a radon test."
Although radon mainly enters homes through the foundation it can also take several other paths, including:
- Cracks in basement floors
- Sump pumps
- Exposed soil
- Construction joints
- Loose-fitting pipes
Radon is measured in pCi/L and the Environmental Protection Agency says any home with a radon reading above 4 pCi/Ls is dangerous, it's the equivalent of smoking 10 cigarettes a day.
Kim Buchmeier knows the dangers all too well. She tested her house in late fall and got a reading of 29.9 pCi/L's.
Afterward, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.
"I was like 'huh, no way, I don't smoke, I never smoke, I'm 37-years-old, I workout, I am busy, I am healthy," Buchmeier said.
Doctors tell her the cause of her cancer is likely due to long-term exposure to radon. It had seeped in through the basement of her house where her bedroom was. Buchmeier, like many other homeowners with high levels, installed a mitigation system, which cost between $800 and $1,500.
To prevent having to install a mitigation system, experts say to test a home for radon whether you're buying, building or have not done so recently. It is also advised continue to test every few years and to do so in different seasons.