COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's an invisible, odorless and dangerous gas, and chances are it may even be in your home.
It’s called radon, and it’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. It's also the cause of 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
One Ohio woman impacted by radon is alive to share her story and to raise awareness around it.
Annie Cacciato has always enjoyed the outdoors and being active, but that’s been a challenge lately. Back in 2013, she experienced a major fall while cleaning, and months later, she noticed something on her body.
“I had some bumps and bruises, but this was like six months later. I had pain right here and I thought, 'Oh, it must have been from me still trying to give over a few bumps and bruises from power washing,'” said Cacciato.
Those bumps and bruises weren’t from cleaning. After a scan and a test done by her doctor, they discovered she had stage four non-small cell lung cancer. It was startling and a surprise to Cacciato who isn’t a smoker.
“I’m a strong person, and it took two years to get over the surgery and just the total just 'dear in the headlights' of dealing with being sick,” she said.
After her diagnosis, Cacciato began researching radon, and she found what she thought to be the cause.
“My high school was tested around 1990," she said. After she got sick, the high school and a Granville building she worked in both tested at a "level 26 or 27," she said.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, about 38% of Ohio’s 88 counties have an average indoor radon level of about 4.0. Levels shouldn’t be any higher than 4.0, according to the EPA. Tests can be done to detect the gas and mitigation will help lower the levels.
“Lung cancer from radon is 100% preventable if people know to test their building,” she said.
Cacciato’s husband Matt has been by her side throughout her journey with stage four cancer and has supported her advocacy work with the Ohio Association of Radon Professionals to help raise awareness around the deadly gas.
“This is part of my purpose to help elevate the knowledge and information that you have the power to control your family’s safety,” she said.
In April, the Ohio House passed House Bill 106, which is the Annie Cacciato Act. If passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, January will become Radon Awareness Month in Ohio. To find out the levels of radon in your area, click here.