Radon: The Silent Killer

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – January is National Radon Awareness Month. South Central Pennsylvania is known to have the odorless, invisible radioactive gas that’s linked to lung cancer. It can seep up into homes thorough soil and into living areas, as one Enola, Cumberland County woman found out.

Amy Morton leads a busy life. She is no stranger to the saying “on the go.” But in 1995, the full-time working mother of two little ones noticed something wasn’t quite right, a sign that prompted a trip to the doctor.

“I told him at some points I get some pain across my chest and I think it’s because I have trouble saying no. He slapped EKG stickers on me. That led to more tests and a CAT scan. They said you have a growth on your upper lobe,” Morton said.

The cancerous growth in her lung was a surprise to Amy, a non-smoker.

“I had nothing going on in my health situation that would have indicated I had lung cancer.” she said.

Morton needed to solve her health mystery.

“I grew up in a house as a young girl that apparently had a radon setting of 48, which is more than 10 times the acceptable radon level,” Morton said. “At that time, 1960’s and 70’s, radon wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen. The only reason why we know what the radon level is now is because we had any place where I had lived or was living tested and discovered that may have been one of the contributing factors.”

During her first bout, doctors removed the diseased part of her left lung. Two years later, she had a recurrence, more surgery and more chemotherapy.

“I went about 14-and-a-half years getting my check-up and there were several tumors in my lower left lung” Morton said.

The third round required that doctors take her entire lung. Morton’s body now relies on the right one.

“For me, I think I’m one of the most luckiest people in the world,” she said. “I’ve had lung cancer three times.”

In an effort to prevent a fourth, she is vigilant when it comes to ridding her home of radon.

“We make sure we have our house tested on a fairly frequent basis,” she said. “We have a radon mitigation system.”

Morton urges everyone to get their homes tested.

“Without it being discovered when it was, I don’t think I’d be having this conversation with you,” she said.

Penn State Hershey Medical Center, The Mitigator and ABC 27 will host Radon: The Silent Killer Thursday at 7:30 p.m. You are invited to watch the show that will focus on radon, including how to get it out of your home.


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