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'I Was Very Confident In My Ignorance:' Woman Whose Husband Died From Radon-Related Cancer Now Works To Inform Others

'I Was Very Confident In My Ignorance:' Woman Whose Husband Died From Radon-Related Cancer Now Works To Inform Others

Gloria Linnertz had no idea that a silent killer was lurking in her Waterloo home.

Her husband, Joe, went to the doctor in late 2005 because his liver enzymes were elevated. After a series of tests, an oncologist informed the couple that Joe had stage IV lung cancer with only weeks to live.

“When we asked the oncologist what could have caused Joe’s cancer, he said known causes of lung cancer are tobacco and radon gas. My husband hadn’t smoked in 27 years and led a healthy lifestyle,” Linnertz said.

But their home harbored dangerous levels of radon, which Linnertz maintains was responsible for her husband’s death.

“We had no idea that we were living with over four times the EPA radon action level in our home for 18 years. I didn’t know that until one month after Joe’s death. He died six weeks after he was diagnosed,” she said. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from radioactive decay in the soil. The gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless.

Has Your Home Had a Radon Test?

Radon kills.

You’ve never seen it or smelled it or tasted it, and you probably don’t know anyone who’s suffered from its effects.

But after smoking, it’s the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in the United States, responsible for 21,000 deaths annually. That’s more than the deaths attributed to drunk driving, drownings and home fires – combined.

It can attack children and adults alike.

Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks and water, but in the home, the gas gets into the air you breathe, and the radiation it carries can cause cancer.

South Dakota is a high-risk state when it comes to radon, and the gas can get into any type of building. The greatest risk, however, is where people spend the most time – in their own homes. And the winter, when homes are closed, is the worst time for significant radon exposure.

Radon, The Silent Killer

CIBOLA COUNTY – Radon has been identified as this country’s second leading cause of lung cancer. High levels of the gas have been identified in every state, according to the EPA.

A naturally occurring, odorless and colorless gas, it is produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks and water. The gas can enter buildings through openings or cracks in the foundation. Radon decays into radioactive solids called radon daughters. These “daughters” attach to dust particles in the air. Inhalation of the gas has been linked to lung cancer.

Mortality statistics for last year indicate that radon caused more deaths than drunk driving, fires and carbon monoxide, explained World Health Organization officials.

Radon Testing Could Mean Difference Between Life and Death

Watch this news segment.

It's a cheap home test that could end up saving you and your family - a radon test. According to state health departments, Nebraska has very high incidents of radon in homes; Adams and Buffalo Counties having some of the highest concentrations.

News Five's Anthony Pura shows us how an inexpensive test can save you and your family.

It may be seeping into your home - high amounts of radon gas and you don't even know it.

"You can't see it, taste it, and smell it, so every house is suitable to radon," said Dick Hansen, Top to Bottom Home Inspection.

It's the second leading cause of lung cancer, right behind cigarettes.

"It's a long term issue. It might take 20 years before you can get lung cancer," Hansen said.

Radon Levels High in 1 of 5 Connecticut Homes

Radon Levels High in 1 of 5 Connecticut Homes

It's the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. The best time to test your home? Between November and March.

Every single home in Connecticut should be tested for radon, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Elevated levels of radon exposure can cause lung cancer, even in people who have never smoked.

“Radon is present at elevated levels in about one out of every five homes in Connecticut,” Commissioner Dr. J. Robert Galvin said in a statement released earlier this month. “However, because you can’t see or smell radon, people often are unaware that there might be a silent killer in their homes.”

Building Healthy Homes: Construction Business Specializes in Radon Mitigation Systems

Building Healthy Homes: Construction Business Specializes in Radon Mitigation Systems

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- January has been designated National Radon Action Month by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Radon has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, second only to smoking. Radon gas killed 20,000 Americans in 2010 according to EPA findings.

Local contractor Lonnie Mallon, owner of Mallon Construction Services, is on board with the EPA in educating the public on the health risks due to radon gas exposure. Mallon has owned his own construction and remodeling business since 1982 but made radon mitigation his primary focus in 1992.

Q&A: What Happens if You Find Radon at Home?

Q&A: What Happens if You Find Radon at Home?

If there’s a health concern inside a home, Mindy Uhle can help county health departments and the public to address the issue. She’s the Healthy Homes Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Among the issues she addresses is radon, a gas that, in high levels, can cause health problems. To test for radon, homeowners can go to a hardware store to purchase an inexpensive charcoal test kit that can be placed on the lowest livable level of a home for a reading and then mailed to the manufacturer’s laboratory for results.

Q. What’s your role as the Healthy Homes Coordinator for the IDPH?

A. My role is to support county environmental health staff and provide information to the general public on health and housing issues.

Q. What is radon and how is it found inside a home?

Radon Testing: Lung Cancer Survivor Encourages Iowans to Test Homes

Watch this news segment.

This month the Iowa Department of Public Health is reminding Iowans to test their home for radon. The poisonous gas affects more households in Iowa than any other state in the country.

Gail Orcutt of Pleasant Hill was diagnosed with lung cancer last spring and had to have her left lung removed. When she was home recovering, she came across an article about lung cancer in non-smokers.

"It was all about radon. So we tested our house. It came back higher than it should be," she said.

The life-long non smoker, then discovered her home of 18 years had unsafe radon levels. Now she's working to encourage more Iowans to test their homes for radon.

Radon: Dealing With a Common Problem

Robert Wagner and Bruce Thomas say only about half of their clients bother to schedule a checkup for a radioactive gas that could cause 20,000 deaths this year.

That casual approach is in a state with a "severe" threat level, adds Bob Lewis from the Department of Environmental Protection.

They are talking about the danger from radon, a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that seeps from the ground and can enter homes and buildings, leading to lung cancer. It is a problem that can be detected by a simple process costing less than $150 and remedied in a mitigation for about $1,500.

The Environmental Protection Agency has declared January National Radon Action Month in an effort to promote detection.

William Long, director of the EPA's Center for Radon and Toxics, says awareness efforts are the best way of making people realize radon is the second-leading cause of all lung cancer deaths in the United States and the leading cause of environmental cancer mortality.

In Highlighting Radon's Risks, Context Needed

In case you haven't heard, it's National Radon Action Month.

Every January, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies hit the airwaves to tell us that radon gas can kill and that every home should be tested. But that message skips over many complexities surrounding the risks from radon.

Radon is a heavy, radioactive gas that can seep out of the soil into basements and other parts of a house. There's no question that inhaling a lot of radon is bad for you, but some scientists think such statements could use a little context.

Phil Price, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, has spent a lot of time studying radon. He is willing to accept the government's rough estimate that radon causes about 21,000 deaths from lung cancer each year. But, he says, people should know something about that number.