Local health officials are encouraging residents to test their homes this month for a potentially dangerous radioactive gas.

January is National Radon Action Month and the Livingston County Health Department is offering free radon test kits to area residents. Radon comes from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and is a part of the air we breathe. It can enter buildings through openings in the foundation floors and walls like sump pump openings, crawlspaces, and cracks. It can become trapped in buildings and lead to elevated and harmful levels. Radon is a tasteless, odorless gas and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

The Health Department reports that 1 in 8 Michigan homes are likely to have an elevated level of radon. A study by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality showed elevated levels in 40% of homes within Livingston County. Testing is the only way to know if a home or building is safe. If detected, radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a price that is comparable to many common home repairs.

Free short-term test kits are available through January 31st. They can be picked up at the Environmental Health Division office located at 2300 East Grand River Avenue in Howell. They can also be purchased at hardware and home improvement centers, along with many supermarkets, but attention should be paid to their expiration dates.

For more radon information, contact the State of Michigan Radon Program at 1-800-RADON-GAS, or the Livingston County Health Department at 1-517-546-9858. (MK)