More than 20 percent of Idaho homes tested contain radon.
That was the word Tuesday in a warning issued by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, where officials were encouraging residents statewide to test for radon at home.
According to the release, radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking.
It has been found in homes across the nation, including every county in Idaho; one in every five homes tested in Ada County has elevated levels of radon gas, and as many as half of the homes in other Idaho counties, such as Bonneville and Kootenai, have tested positive for elevated radon gas levels.
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil. It is odorless, tasteless and invisible.
Exposure to high levels of radon can be dangerous. It is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and causes more than 20,000 deaths each year in the United States.
Officials said the best way to prevent lung cancer—for those who smoke—is to quit. The second best thing is to make sure you do not have high radon levels in your home.
“It’s difficult to identify symptoms associated with radon exposure, so it may take years for any health problems to show up,” said Radon Program Manager Jim Faust. “Having your home tested really is the best way to know if you have been exposed and to protect your family and yourself.”
The highest levels of radon in homes occur in winter, when doors and windows are closed. Radon levels are generally highest in basements and ground-floor rooms.
Factors such as design, construction, and ventilation of the home can affect the amount of radon drawn indoors from soil.
The only way to know if you have radon in your home is to test for it.
Tests should be performed in the lowest lived-in area of the house, using test kits approved by the National Environmental Health Association.
An inexpensive and easy-to-use test kit is available in Idaho by calling 2-1-1, the Idaho CareLine, or visiting www.healthandwelfare.gov. Test kits are available for a reduced price of $7.95, which includes shipping and lab analysis.
If your home tests high, you can hire a contractor to reduce the amount of radon entering your home or make the necessary modifications yourself. To receive information on do-it-yourself home modifications, call the Radon Hotline at 800-445-8647.
Learn more about radon in Idaho at: www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov