Health officials say about 7 in 10 Iowa homes contain elevated levels of radon gas and while many homes have dangerous radon levels, residents may be oblivious.

Every one of Iowa’s 99 counties is considered at high risk for elevated radon levels. Research scientist Dan Tranter says the colorless, odorless, radioactive gas occurs naturally and rises up from the soil.

“If you breathe radon for a long period of time, it damages your lungs, which can lead to lung cancer,” Tranter says. “It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.”

Radon test kits cost between $10 and $15 and they’re available at hardware and home improvement stores as well as at many city and county health departments. The best time to test for radon is now, during the winter heating season. He says buying a kit is a smart idea.

“You’ll know if you have an issue and maybe you need to do a second test. And ultimately if you need to fix the problem there are qualified professionals that can install radon reduction systems in our homes.” Radon is prevalent in Iowa yet very few people have their homes scanned for the hazardous gas.

“The ideal goal is 100% of homes tested every five years,” he says, “but our most recent time-frame showed only 1% had tested.” An EPA study finds the national number of homes with elevated radon levels is one in 15, while in Iowa, the figure is five in every seven homes.