GRANVILLE, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — A Central Ohio woman now fighting the odds said she's going to take the time she has left to fight for the safety of children. Annie Cacciato wants all Ohio schools to test for the cancer-causing gas radon.
"In my professional opinion as an advocate and real person with stage 4 lung cancer, that (spread of radon) could have been prevented. It's just ridiculous," Cacciato said.
She grew up in Granville, was a high school athlete and graduated North Ridge high school in 1981. She's a non smoker who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2013. After her diagnosis, she discovered her old workplace and school had high levels of radon in which she says she was exposed.
"You have no warning signs that you're breathing in toxic air," Cacciato said. "A place that I love is also a place that poisoned me."
Radon is a gas that comes from the ground and originates from decaying uranium. Radon experts say Licking County has some of the highest levels of radon in Ohio. The most recent state records indicate North Ridge Schools tested up to 25 picocuries per liter of radon about ten years ago. The EPA considers level four and up to be in the "Danger Zone" with recommendations of mitigation.
Cacciato said she came down with pneumonia her junior year. North Ridge Schools' superintendent said Cacciato's old high schools is now the district middle school. It was renovated and had a new HVAC system installed twenty years ago. Meeting the requirements of the health department, the superintendent said the district doesn't regularly test the middle school for radon now.
"My plan is to contact every school board in Ohio," Cacciato said about her plan to push for a new law when it comes to testing for radon in schools.
She started a letter writing campaign and has already contacted every Licking County school district. She told them, "I was exposed throughout my teen years in a Licking County public school." She ends with, "Don't make cost an issue not to test."
The cost to test an entire school building can average around $4,000. Some superintendents contacted by ABC 6's Scoring Our Schools said they currently don't have testing in the budget.