After a positron emission tomography (PET) scan in January, the doctors noticed spots in her lungs -- she had lung cancer. This confused Stirton, as she had never smoked and came from a family with no history of cancer. However, once she started talking to family and friends as well as doing some research, she discovered something.
"It's very clear the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers is radon exposure," Stirton said.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is, in fact, the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Overall, this radioactive gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is responsible for around 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, according to the EPA.
With this new information, one of Stirton's friends ordered some test kits for her, as well as her other friends. Once she received the kit, Stirton and her family needed to close their house for about 96 hours with all windows and doors closed. Once the test kit remained in the house for that time period, she sealed up the envelope and sent it off to a lab in Carrollton, Texas.
"On February 2 around 10 p.m. on a Friday night, we came home from a dinner at a friend's house," Stirton said.
What she found shocked her family. The EPA considers the safe amount of radon to be below 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Stirton's house had a level above 13.0.
"We literally threw some clothes in a bag, grabbed our toothbrushes and walked out the door in our pajamas at 10:00 at night," Stirton said. "I said, 'I'm not spending another night in this house.'"
The process of how radon gets into a person's home can be random. While there are certain areas and terrains that can cause higher levels of radon, any type of house can be impacted. The way a home was built -- along with the material used in doing so -- can play a part. If there are holes or crevices in the foundation of the house, this can allow certain radon gases to fill up a house.