Radon and Lung Cancer

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.

But how do you know you aren't living in a contaminated home?

Dusty Donaldson, the executive director of the Dusty Joy Foundation, a local lung cancer advocacy group, explained why radon is common in the Valley.

"It took a while to get that diagnosis because I am not what they call a high risk person," said Donaldson.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2005.

She said not many people know, but radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.

"I have met many many people who have never smoked but diagnosed with lung cancer and later realized they had high levels of radon in their homes," said Donaldson.

Where does radon come from?

It naturally occurs in the soil and seeps in through cracks in our home where it gets trapped and it's quite deadly.

Radon will kill more people this year than AIDS, drunk driving, drowning or forest fires.

One in 15 homes in America have radon.

While these numbers are scary, in Rockingham County those numbers rise to one in three homes.

"It's due to the natural geology of the Valley," said Kimberly Lester, who works for the Dusty Joy Foundation.

There is good news though, it is really easy to test and kits are available at most hardware stores.

Experts recommend you keep it in a room you spend a lot of time in, like a bedroom.

"It is like having a volcano right here in your backyard and it is so easy to test and so inexpensive to fix the problem if you have it," said Donaldson.

Richard Dickerson, who is a radon inspector, said a great time to test is during a real estate transaction.

However, a new change is real estate code might make it easier for a seller to withhold knowledge of radon.

"Just been made aware that there is a change that it is no longer necessary for a homeowner to disclose a presence of radon in their home to a prospective buyer," said Dickerson.

According to the Radon Division of the Virginia Department of Health, if a seller knows their home has radon they no longer have to disclose the information to a buyer.

"You may be walking into a situation where it is endangering your health," said Dickerson.

But leaders in the Virginia Association of Realtors say a buyer always has the right to have a property inspected and tested before closing.

"When you consider that every day the number of people who die from lung cancer is equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing into the ground, then it is no wonder I feel like I have walked away from a plane crash," said Donaldson.

Leaders with the Radon Division of the Virginia Department of Health just learned about the change in real estate code.

Now they want to get the word out to let folks know this is something they should be aware of.