HASTINGS, Neb. – January is National Radon Action Month, and testing for Radon in your home isn't as complicated as you may think.

According to Michele Bever, health director for the South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD), radon is a health risk in the 4-county health district, consisting of Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties. 

“Radon forms naturally from the decay (breaking down) of radioactive elements, such as uranium, in the ground; 67% of the results from homes tested last year were above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level of 4 pCi/L,” Bever said. “Unless you test for radon in your home, there is no way to know how much radon exists in the air you are breathing.”

The EPA estimates that radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States.

Brandon McDermott, radio host, Operations Manager and Program Director at KHAS Radio had previous experience with radon testing. He first learned about radon while investigating for a story about radon at a previous job in Lincoln.

“I learned how widespread [radon] was in Nebraska and I was completely taken by surprise because I was 30 years old before I even heard it was an issue,” he said.

For the story, he was connected with somebody whose husband had gotten cancer because of radon in their basement, and she was trying to get the word out about the effects of long-term radon exposure.

“I wasn’t a homeowner at that time, but it was something I wanted to be aware of and be mindful of going forward,” McDermott said.

The very first time their family bought a house, in Lincoln, their real estate agent brought up the fact that they should get it tested for radon, just to be safe. So, they requested the test and the sellers had it tested.

When the results came back with high radon levels, the sellers paid for the mitigation as part of the conditions of sale, which was included as an addendum to the purchase agreement. McDermott said “It wasn’t that big of a deal, within, I think, a week it was, they had put in a system on the side of our house. It was taken care of and we moved in.”

With previous experience under his belt, when McDermott was preparing to move to Hastings last summer, he asked his realtor if they could request a test for radon. “We had it tested and it was, again, high here in town. It was something that was very easy to find out.”

McDermott said the initial radon levels in the house here in Hastings were even higher than their Lincoln home. However, with both homes, installation of a radon reduction system brought radon levels down below the recommended action level.

While the mitigation was paid for by the sellers in both cases, McDermott said the cost for mitigation is worth it, and he would have found a way to cover it himself, if needed. “The cost is pennies, compared to what a life is worth and what that could mean going forward, you know, for my children, for myself, for my wife,” he said.

The cost of radon mitigation will vary depending on the size and design of the home. According to Forbes, radon reduction typically ranges in cost from $700 to $4000 and, nationally, most home owners will pay about $1,000.

Radon test kits are available at South Heartland (606 N. Minnesota Ave., Hastings, NE 68901) for $8. Kits may also be purchased at the Nebraska Extension offices in Clay, Nuckolls and Webster Counties and the public library in Superior. For more information, call SHDHD at 402-462-6211.