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radon in the home

Radon Can Be Deadly, But Very Few Nebraskans Test Their Homes

Health officials say Nebraska has one of the worst radon emission rates in the country and while many homes have dangerous radon levels, residents may be oblivious.

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.

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Special Report: Radioactive Kitchen Counters

Lexington Woman with Radon-Linked Lung Cancer is Advocate for Testing

She knew better and did nothing.

For Lois Turner Dees, that's the most frustrating part of knowing that radon in her home contributed to her diagnosis of lung cancer.

She knew radon was a dangerous, known cause of lung cancer and prevalent in Central Kentucky, but she never had her home tested.

"It just wasn't a high priority," said Dees. "We knew you could have radon tests; we just didn't get it done."

When she says "we" she means herself and her late husband, Larry Turner, who bought the house in 2000. She still lives there.

Some remember Dees, who remarried shortly after her cancer diagnosis in 2011, as one of the public faces of grief after the crash of Comair flight 5191 in August 2006, in which her husband and 48 others were killed. Turner's was the first public funeral, drawing 1,200 people from among the many who knew him from his job as head of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Office.