“I had no idea.” Could a potentially deadly gas be lurking in your home?

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – What you can’t see can hurt you, that’s the eye-opening message the State Department of Health is trying to send to Hoosiers about radon.

Joyce cook lived in her Terre Haute home for 37-years, but it wasn’t until she put it up for sale that she had the house tested for radioactive gas. “Well I freaked out. I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.

All that time spent unaware, never knowing a potentially deadly gas was living in her basement. “I had no idea. I mean I had no idea. The radon count is not supposed to be over four and mine was thirty-three,” said Cook.

Radon is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It seeps through cracks and gaps in floors, walls and construction joints and around service pipes, accumulating in air and drinking water.

“I probably should have tested it years back but you just don’t think about it,” said Cook.

As a homeowner radon should be on your mind. The gas can be found throughout the United States and can get into any type of building, but the risk of exposure is highest in homes, where people spend a majority of their time. The EPA says nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States has elevated radon levels.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new house that’s never been lived in or an old one, you don’t know when it’s going to show up,” said Rick Louderback, who tests for radon in homes across the Wabash Valley.

The gas accumulates without warning, and long term-exposure can be dangerous to your health. “It destroys cells in your lungs which lowers your immune system and cause cancer. Basement houses are more susceptible, but it’s all houses, and I’ve tested slab houses that have had radon,” explained Louderback.

Radon is responsible for approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. “You don’t know until you test, so the best thing to do is test,” said Louderback.

As a realtor for the last 35-years, that’s the same piece of advice cook gives her clients and also uses in her own life. “For as little expense, everyone at some point should have a radon test,” said Cook.

A radon testing kit can be purchased at most home or hardware stores. If high levels of radon are detected, licensed contractors can install mitigation systems to eliminate the problem and protect residents.

To learn more about radon, visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s radon page at http://www.in.gov/isdh/24346.htm.